M+E Daily

Release Window Wrap: What Does ‘Alice’ Deal Portend For Home Entertainment?

Theatrical distribution insiders tell Variety that it took a big title such as Disney’s “Alice In Wonderland” to “redraw the line” on release windows. “No exhibitor wanted to risk a poor quarterly earnings report because they’d passed on screening ‘Alice,’ whose commercial prospects appear bright, particularly with the upcharge for a 3D ticket,” the magazine says in its Feb. 26 analysis of the release-window debate.

Exactly what the Disney truce portends for the quarterly earnings of DVD distributors and other home entertainment service providers, however, is far from clear.

So far, few have addressed the extent to which a film’s “commercial prospects” factor into a studio’s push for a shorter theatrical window. Commercial prospects can shift right up to the eve of a film’s theatrical premiere.

From the standpoint of recouping a film’s production costs, studios would seemingly benefit from a general ability to move up home entertainment release dates if a title’s box office forecasts dimmed. But such an option, if exercised too freely by studios on a varying case-by-case basis, could wreak havoc on home entertainment supply chain planning.

The chief issue for service providers going forward is whether studios will push for a uniform shortening of theatrical release windows, or insist on flexibility for individual titles.