Tuesday, February 23, 2010

eating your own hand

Yet more evidence that the entertainment industry can't stop panicking about the new digital landscape.

We'll call this the digital butterfly effect. Disney, which seems more willing than most to toy with the DVD sales model to maximize profits (Disney Vault, anyone?), is now toying on the other end: by narrowing the window for its new Tim Burton-helmed Alice in Wonderland re-boot to be in theaters.

While direct-to-video and simultaneous release are not necessarily new, the idea that a producer would take the central event of a theatrically released film (that is the, er, theatrical release itself) and try to use it to jump-start DVD sales is ... interesting. Mostly because they are taking the central strength of film, its longevity, and bringing it closer to live theater by limiting its run.

(The key difference being that Disney's marketing budget and built-in platform makes such a ploy a cagey gamble -- everyone, after all, knows where they can buy one your items -- whereas for any theatrical production that isn't Phantom of the Opera, a limited run is a sad concession to reality.)

But as the mouse flaps its ears in Anaheim, some corporate conglomerate in London craps its pants. To wit:
Tim Burton's new film version of Alice in Wonderland will not be screened at Odeon cinemas in the UK, Irish Republic and Italy, the cinema chain says.
The move is in response to the Disney studio's plan to reduce the period in which it can be shown only in cinemas from the standard 17 weeks.
The plan would allow Disney to release the film on DVD at the end of May.
Odeon said it would "set a new benchmark, leading to a 12-week window becoming rapidly standard".
There are always unintended consequences to any move, and in an industry with as many moving parts as the international film market, of course someone's gamble is someone else's guaranteed loss.

Although, on the face of it, the complaint that the 12-week window could become the industry standard seems a bit random. It's not as though theaters are at a loss of material to screen. And had it come from their end, couldn't theaters use the limited time only banner to fill every seat during a shorter run, like every other business does?

Instead of a rational reaction to shift in business practice (and not even a permanent one, might I add), we have the usual panic-in-the-face-of-any-change-whatsoever. Charming.

[Image via Waylou]

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