'Herbie's' release has distrib side with theater owners

BERLIN — German distributor Kinowelt has come out in support of theater owners following last week’s row between local exhibs and Buena Vista Intl. over the early DVD release of “Herbie: Fully Loaded.”

Leading exhibs Greater Union Filmpalast and Cinemaxx refused to carry the pic in protest of its early release. Pic is due out on DVD just four months after its Aug. 4 theatrical release. In Germany, the allotted time between theatrical and DVD is usually six months.

Kinowelt said Monday it would retain the six-month window but added that if it becomes necessary to move a specific DVD release date forward, it would offer cinemas discounted rental rates.

New system would offer a 4% discount if a film’s homevid release is shortened to five months; 9% if the window is narrowed to four months; and 17% if it is shortened to three months.

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Kinowelt has in recent months acquired a number of high-profile titles, including current hit “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” Ashton Kutcher starrer “Guess Who” and French doc “March of the Penguins.”

Other upcoming releases include “Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story,” with Kurt Russell, and Marc Forster’s “Stay,” starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts.

Kinowelt CEO Bertil le Claire said, “Our new distribution rental model is in line with the great importance of the cinema in its exploitation of our films.”

Le Claire added the move could help restart discussions between distribs and exhibs on an acceptable rental model for all parties.

Kinowelt’s “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” released in local cinemas July 21, was set to come out on DVD this fall; however, in a show of solidarity with theater owners, company has postponed the release until early 2006.

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