German chains set to boycott 'Fully Loaded'

BERLIN — The little car that could is creating quite a stir in Europe.

Major exhib chains in Germany are set to boycott BVI’s “Herbie: Fully Loaded” due to its early DVD release in December.

Greater Union Filmpalast and Cinemaxx have both announced they will not carry the latest “Love Bug” pic, which is due out on DVD in December, just four months after its Aug. 4 theatrical release. In Germany the allotted time between theatrical and DVD is usually six months.

The shrinking homevid window has been a source of concern in the U.S. as well, and the four-month period at issue in the “Herbie” dispute is not unusual Stateside.

According to the National Assn. of Theater Owners, last year the average window between domestic theatrical and homevideo releases was four months, 16 days, which is a full month shorter than the average in 2000.

Still, no exhibs have publicly threatened to boycott titles with short windows and studios generally say they are committed to preserving the DVD window where it is.

In Germany, however, producers and distribs have increasingly demanded a shorter window between releases in order to hinder piracy and increase revenue by helping DVDs profit from a pic’s theatrical recognition. Local exhibs remain opposed to any changes, arguing that a complete overhaul of the system must include new and fair conditions for exhibs.

“Any major changes should result in a system that is fair for everyone and allows theater owners to make a profit, rather than a one-sided solution for distributors,” said Jan Oesterlin, Greater Union Filmpalast spokesman.

BVI reportedly has offered to cut its rental rate from 53% to 50.4% of box office grosses in large theaters and 45.5% in smaller cinemas, but that appears to have left local theater owners unimpressed.

Other German exhibs like Kinopolis and UCI are still negotiating with BVI, but are not expected to accept current terms.

A UCI spokesman said there was still a chance to reach agreement, however. But local exhibs reckon it’s a film they can do without, given the current dispute and the pic not having been a blockbuster Stateside.

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