Oz games lead to date switch

Studios to push quality pix to coincide with altered school break

SYDNEY — When the Olympic Games played Sydney in 2000, distribbers held on to their premium releases thinking the population would be so hooked into Olympic-related events that cinemas would be vacant.

As it happened, “Big Momma’s House” and “Scary Movie” went boffo with holidaying teens desperate for alternative entertainment, then the held-back releases cannibalized each other resulting in 2.1% dip in annual B.O., the first for 12 years.

Bizzers have vowed this won’t happen again. For the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, a smaller event being hosted by a smaller city March 15 -26, the studios have decided to unspool quality movies regardless and actually push family and teen pics forward to coincide with the altered school break.

“Shaggy Dog,” “Zathura” and “Dreamer” are being released in Victoria (of which Melbourne is the capital) on March 9 to coincide with the vacation there. Pics will release in the other states April 6 or 13 to coincide their unaltered school break.

Fox was unable to stagger the release of what’s likely the biggest vacation pic, “Ice Age 2.” It goes out nationally April 6. Sony decided to peg its March 16 national release for “Yours, Mine and Ours” on the Victoria holidays. Australia’s eight states and territories often have slightly different school vacation dates so distribbers are used to splitting releases for family fare but a month early is a considerable difference.

“Victoria accounts for 27% of the market, so it’s well worth doing,” noted one exhibber.

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