Exhibitor is seventh-largest chain in U.S.

In an unusual showdown, Midwest exhib Marcus Theaters has told Paramount Pictures it will not book Johnny Depp movie musical “Sweeney Todd” in any of its 49 theaters because the studio’s asking price was too high.

It’s rare for an exhibitor and studio to end up in such a situation. Paramount, which is distributing the DreamWorks-Warner Bros. co-production domestically, unspools “Sweeney Todd” on Friday in more than 1,200 theaters nationwide.

“Unfortunately, as a result of the negotiations with Paramount reaching an impasse, Marcus Theaters will not be showing ‘Sweeney Todd’ in any of its locations,” Marcus prexy Bruce J. Olson said in a statement.

“This decision was reluctantly reached because the price requested by Paramount to show the film in Marcus Theaters was too expensive in the opinion of our film buyers,” Olson said.

Marcus, the seventh-largest circuit in the U.S., operates theaters in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, North Dakota and Iowa and in such cities as Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisc.; Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; and Minneapolis. The circuit’s top 20 theaters are among the country’s 1,200 highest grossers overall.

Neither Marcus nor the Paramount side would talk about the terms discussed.

Generally speaking, the split is higher in favor of the studio at the beginning of a movie’s run.

“We believe the movie is worth every penny,” a Paramount spokesman said. “We stand behind ‘Sweeney Todd’ and are thrilled to be playing it in 1,200-plus theaters nationwide.”

Based on the Stephen Sondheim musical, the film adaptation was directed by Tim Burton and stars Helena Bonham Carter opposite Depp.

Par said it will still play in all of the markets where Marcus theaters operate.

A spokesman for Marcus Theaters said he believes the move marks the first time the circuit has decided not to show a movie because of a studio’s asking price.

“Our customers are our first priority. We must be able to control all of our costs so that we can continue to provide the best entertainment value for our guests. This commitment is the foundation of our business,” Olson said.

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