Disney Cutting Down Alice in Wonderland's Theatrical Run
by Alex Billington
February 10, 2010
A couple of my industry colleagues have been pointing out an article found on Hollywood Reporter that addresses an interesting issue regarding the theatrical run of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, which hits theaters in 2D and 3D on March 5th. The article says that a normal "first run" for a theatrically released mainstream movie is up to 16 weeks, but Disney's CEO Bob Iger has decided to experiment with a shorter run - only 13 weeks - in order to get the movie out on DVD and Blu-Ray quicker. In theory, they know it'll sell well on home video and they don't want to lose sales waiting to switch formats. Is this really an issue?
I was initially just going to report this news and tell you all to make sure you see Alice in Wonderland right away before it leaves theaters in 13 weeks but then I started thinking - is this really that big of a problem? I mean, maybe I'm just missing the point here, but is 13 weeks really too short? Avatar made over $2 billion worldwide in only 7 weeks. That's more than enough time for a movie to have a good run and make money. If you haven't seen a movie by 10 weeks into its release, I doubt buzz is going to make any difference, and you're probably not reading this site anyway. Why would cutting off those last three weeks really matter?
The article goes on to sort of say that the movie theaters (also known as exhibitors) want those three extra weeks because somehow they make money off of those weeks that they otherwise wouldn't (running some other movie instead). "Exhibitors have made it clear that they need a compensating upside from the moves. Less clear is how the Burbank studio will provide such a benefit, but film-rental terms are always subject to some negotiating." Basically, theaters and studios can negotiate exactly how much the split is between the two of them. The exhibitors' percentage goes up as time passses, so they make more the longer it plays.
So essentially, it's just about how much money the theaters make. It has nothing to do with consumers or your experience or any of that. Plus I'm not sure anyone who tries to see a movie 13 weeks out is going to complain when it's not playing anymore (but will be on DVD soon). I should be on the other side of this argument, supportive of good theatrical runs, but it's just complaining for the sake of complaining. So sure, make sure you go see Alice in Wonderland before it leaves theaters in 13 weeks. And if you try and go to see it on May 28th (the 13th week) for your 10th time and its gone, then you can come complain legitimately!