Exhibitor blames commercial dispute

LONDON — Odeon, the U.K.’s biggest exhib chain, will not show Sony’s new release “Rambo” at its theaters this weekend, citing undisclosed “commercial reasons.”

News has sent shockwaves around the local industry as “Rambo” is the frame’s most significant new release in the U.K. News has also enraged online Sylvester Stallone fans, especially those who live in rural areas where their only local cinema is an Odeon.

Decision by Odeon not to play the testosterone-fuelled pic will likely see its opening U.K. B.O. haul dented considerably even though Sony has spent much of this week scrambling to get other chains, including other market leaders Vue and Cineworld, to pump up their “Rambo” showings.

Odeon is tight-lipped on the decision not to play the franchise sequel. “Owing to commercial reasons, Odeon has made the decision not to screen the film ‘Rambo’ across its cinemas in the U.K.,” said a statement. “As the U.K.’s largest cinema chain, Odeon offers its guests a wide range of film genres to appeal to many different audiences. As such the decision not to screen ‘Rambo’ will free up screens to show alternative popular new films such as ‘Jumper,’ ‘Be Kind Rewind’ and ‘Juno’.”

An exhib source told Variety that Odeon’s decision to pull “Rambo” must be “over a disagreement over the terms. But to us, the film rentals rate seems reasonable enough for a release such as ‘Rambo.’ ”

“There has to be a time when neither player steps down. Both companies have their budgets and both are playing the game,” commented Andrew Turner, Cineworld director of film booking, adding that “I can’t remember the last time this happened in the multiplex era.”

Bookers had predicted that “Rambo” would open to just over $3.5 million but projections have been scaled back to closer to $3 million. That said, pic is still likely to claim top spot in the charts. Some positive reviews and Stallone’s solid promotional work in Blighty should help drive opening weekend biz.

Peter Taylor, m.d., Sony Pictures Releasing U.K., declined to comment on the situation.

Sci-fi actioner “Jumper,” last weekend’s B.O. champ in its opening sesh, is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of the Odeon decision not to screen “Rambo.”

Also going out wide this weekend is Michel Gondry’s “Be Kind, Rewind,” which Pathe plays on an ambitious 367. But previews of $413,244 at 300 on Wednesday and Thursday have left bizzers underwhelmed about leftfield pic’s commercial prospects. Other releases such as “My Blueberry Nights” and “The Edge of Heaven” cater mainly for arthouse auds.

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