Plea on ‘Ring’ strings

Teutonic exhibs urge WB against conditions

BERLIN — German exhibs are urging distrib Warner Bros. not to enforce the strict conditions on “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” that it attached to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Warners forced local exhibs to unspool “Harry Potter” three times daily, difficult and expensive for many cinemas that open late in the day.

“With a long movie, cinemas would have to start the first showing at 2 p.m.,” said Andreas Kramer, head of Germany’s exhib association HDF. “Kids get home after then and wouldn’t go to the cinema until 4 p.m. at the earliest. This is a huge movie, and Warners has the right to market it the way it sees fit, but for many smaller cinemas, it means a lot more costs.”

Exhibs are even more up in arms about Warners’ demands that “Fellowship of the Ring” be screened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when nearly all businesses in Germany close.

Kramer said Warners’ “Harry Potter” screening saturation left many early showings empty during pic’s first week in release here. An all-out publicity blitz also kept viewers away by convincing them the pic would be sold out.

A multiplex in Dusseldorf was forced to take out newspaper ads assuring moviegoers that there were plenty of seats left, while in other cities viewers who called to book tickets for weeks later were surprised to find they could see the film that same day.

Warners declined to comment on the HDF’s request but said the decisions are made in consultation with its U.S. parent company. Kramer said he had discussed the matter with the distrib’s top brass, however.

“Like ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘The Lord of the Rings’ will remain a huge hit for weeks,” Kramer said. “Warners does not need to force these conditions on theaters. People will come see this movie regardless.”

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