Pre-Xmas exhib anxiety

Exhibitors said they expect delivery of 1,500 “Tombstone” prints to become a nightmare before Christmas, but officials for Technicolor Entertainment Services and Buena Vista Pictures Distribution said Wednesday that delivery of the pic is firmly in hand.

“Tombstone,” which opens Saturday, marks the second major test for the start-up TES delivery system, which broke down in its Dec. 10 debut with an estimated 5% or 106 of 2,132 “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit” screens missing the print on its opening weekend.

Several exhibitors said similar delays with “Tombstone” would push delivery of the print into Christmas Eve — the one day when most theaters in the United States close early.

Anxious exhibs

“We’re extremely nervous,” said Michael Rembusch, veepee ofFranklin, Ind.-based Syndicate Theatres and president of trade group Theatre Owners of Indiana. “It will be very difficult for them to get this done on Christmas Eve. Without nighttime deliveries and keys to the theaters, any (film delivery) system is doomed to failure.”

TES and BV officials responded that they are sure the majority of “Tombstone” prints will be delivered by end of business today, while allowing that a handful of prints in rural areas will be delivered early Friday morning.

“We’re highly confident that systems controls and capabilities are in place to make this a successful distribution,” said Technicolor Inc. senior veepee and chief administrative officer Dave Elliott, adding that all of the “Tombstone” prints were delivered to air carrier Airborne Express on Wednesday.

BV Pictures Distribution reportedly rushed delivery of “Tombstone” to make sure that problems encountered with “Sister Act 2” are not repeated with “Tombstone.””We weren’t going to take any chances,” said BV Pictures Distribution president Richard Cook.

Formation of TES has sparked an intense rivalry with industry stalwart National Film Service, which has handled prints for all of the major studios and independents for 47 years. Disney broke from the ranks to become the first client of TES on Dec. 1 when its contract with National Film Service expired.

Announced at NATO/Sho-West ’92, TES differs from NFS because it is a closed-loop computer system, which is designed to constantly track a print during delivery to minimize the risk of piracy.

‘Sister Act’ surprises

Despite the safeguards, there were isolated reports of “Sister Act 2” prints mistakenly arriving at a Sears department store, tire stores and restaurants, as well as one delivery in Kentucky being completed by a local taxi driver. Acknowledging that there were “Sister Act 2” miss-outs, Elliott said “we have taken steps to insure against reoccurrences.”

A key factor in Disney’s switch to TES is reportedly comprehensive restoration facilities, which allow for prints to be quickly rejuvenated for second-run discount houses — a growing revenue stream for the studios.

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