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!
Just thinking about this, I doubt any film really needs to be more than 10 weeks. Like you said, it only took 7 weeks for Avatar to become the highest grossing film of all time (without inflation). What I WOULD like to see is the mainstream cinemas giving more screen time to more independent films thought normally wouldn't get more than a week, if played at all.
Marcus on Feb 10, 2010
very good points. This seems to be a total non story to me. there will be some other movie out that will be out on the 13th week that the casual moviegoer will see. if youre actually interested in seeing this specific movie, youre not waiting 3 months to see it.
Spencer on Feb 10, 2010
I think independent movies is a great idea. Getting new raw talent out there would be awesome. What I think they are really afraid of is the bootlegging. I think they are gonna lose alot if they don't get to dvd as soon as possible.
King on Feb 10, 2010
This decision is like a coin toss; it can go either way. If it does a "Land of the Lost" Disney will regret cutting the theatrical run. If it does a "Hangover" then it won't be as much of a problem. However the budget is rumoured to be around $250 million. The Hangover didn't have anywhere near that kind of budget. It had only $35 million. What if Disney is doing this because they think that Wonderland wil be rated R.
Eric on Feb 10, 2010
Why not leave it at 16 weeks but have the DVD/Blu-Ray release overlap? It'd be interesting to see how people would react to leaving the theatre and on their way out being able to buy the film.
el on Feb 10, 2010
So, do this mean that Alice in Wonderland will be coming to blu ray disc and dvd on June 1st, 2010 Tuesday?????.
Sean on Feb 10, 2010
The first step in the death of cinema. Give it 30 years or less, half the movies will be DVD only.
Al on Feb 10, 2010
I really doubt anyone would see a movie in the theater if the DVD is simultaneously available. Let's see, $100 to take a family of 5 to the movies with drinks and food vs. a $1 rental at RedBox to gather the family around the TV and watch it. You do the math. Cost breakdown for family of 5 to see a movie: http://www.creditmomblog.com/kids-and-money/movie-ticket-prices-the-cost-of-taking-a-family-of-five-to-see-batman.html
JediJones on Feb 10, 2010
I really doubt anyone would see a movie in the theater if the DVD is simultaneously available. Let's see, $100 to take a family of 5 to the movies with drinks and food vs. a $1 rental at RedBox to gather the family around the TV and watch it. You do the math. Google "The Cost of Taking a Family of Five to See Batman" to see the breakdown of that $100.
JediJones on Feb 10, 2010
I hope this happens because i hate going to the Cinema, you cant get into a movie as much when at the cinema, so the quicker to blu ray the better. Lets face it, blu ray is better than a big projector that makes the movie look hazy.
dave on Feb 11, 2010
So it looks like we'll be getting the Alice in Wonderland DVD and Blu Ray Disc early on June 1st, 2010 Tuesday!.
Sean on Feb 15, 2010
@Alex Billington- Alex, if Alice in Wonderland comes out to dvd and blu ray disc 13 weeks after its theatrical release, then doesn't that mean that it would be coming to dvd and blu ray disc exactly on June 1st, 2010 Tuesday?. On that week in june 2010 is 13 weeks after March 5th, 2010 Friday.
Sean on Feb 17, 2010
The problem with what Disney is doing is illustrated pretty well in the comments thus far. If people know the only have to wait 3 months they are more likely to skip the theater and wait for the blu ray/dvd release, costing the exhibitors money. For those of you clamoring for strictly home video releases, just remember that rarely does anyone buy a dvd more than once but people make repeat visits to movies all the time (Avatar, Titanic, TDK, Transformers 1/2, Iron Man). This means less revenue, which means less budget and fewer risks like Inception, LOTR, District 9 and more sequels, reboots and TV show remakes. Beware what you wish for when you ask for the death of the theatrical experience.
Matt on Feb 22, 2010
Well, it is not really about the question of 16 or 13 weeks is enough for a movie to run. For most movies it might be more than enough. It is about agreements companies have made with each other, and they have made these agreements probably with good reason. And giving in to this might cost a lot more further down the road. Chances are quite large the sales will be higher... Disney will use these numbers against the cinemas and try to speed up the process even further. It happened with Up over here in The Netherlands. The film was still running, and doing fairly well, when the DVD came out. After that, the movie was dead in the cinema, even though it was Digital 3D.
Rickmeister on Feb 23, 2010
I believe exhibitors share a shifting percentage of the take with the studios. Every week the movie remains in theaters, the exhibitor's percentage of the take increases, while the studio's decreases. That is why second-run theaters can usually sell their tickets so cheaply (they have a higher percentage of the take because the movie has been out for so long).
adam on Feb 23, 2010
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