| LAS VEGAS
LAS VEGAS Trouble is brewing between overseas
theater chains and U.S. studios over how quickly films should
be released on the DVD format, industry officials said on
Exhibitors and studios are at loggerheads over the
shrinking of the time period between a movie's theatrical and
DVD releases, just as many U.S. chains have been critical of
Hollywood for cutting the gap in a rush to sell DVDs and profit
Theaters say that slices into profits as moviegoers stay
Movie ticket sales outside the United States topped
domestic box office last year, underlining the importance of
foreign markets to Hollywood.
Worldwide box office sales rose 11 percent to $25.8 billion
in 2006, including a 5.5 percent gain in U.S. sales to $9.5
billion, and a 14 percent jump in overseas sales to $16.3
Foreign theater chains are pushing for the widespread
adoption of laws to block the shrinking of the distribution
window, said Ad Westrate, president of the International Union
of Cinemas (UNIC), which represents some 30,000 screens.
A French law that bans DVD releases within six months of a
theatrical run would serve as the model, Westrate said.
"We are trying to implement this law in other nations," he
said. "Shortening the window is not the answer to piracy."
But studios do not want that change.
Rather than placing arbitrary time limits on DVD releases,
"the marketplace has to dictate those things," Andrew Cripps,
president of Paramount Pictures International told attendees at
a Monday breakfast at ShoWest International Day, a movie
theater industry conference.
Overseas theater owners and studios also are discussing how
to pay for a roll-out of digital cinema, which doubled to about
2,500 screens in 2006 but lags behind the U.S. transition,
Westrate also said his group was calling for unified
digital standards and financing models but believes the
distributors should pay for the transition.
Cripps said studios were willing to consider paying a
"virtual print fee" like that paid to U.S. exhibitors to
finance the digital transition, which the industry hopes will
reinvigorate moviegoing among consumers who have a growing
number of entertainment options.
"A (financing) model that works for the international
market has to be found," he said.