Exhibitors move to tighten windows

Cannes Directors’ Fortnight standout “Amreeka” has attracted a healthy box office take of E312,586 ($435,000) in its first eight days in Gaul, following its controversial video-on-demand release two days before its theatrical bow.

But Gallic distribs hoping to release other pics day and date in theaters and via VOD will have to think again. The flood of protests from exhibitors, a TV web that had pre-bought the film and DVD distribs forced Paris-based Memento Films Distribution to remove it from VOD — and now the government is reviewing the release windows.

Helmed by Cherien Dabis, “Amreeka” bowed June 17. Its first-week trawl was aided by buzz from Cannes, where it nabbed the Fipresci Directors’ Fortnight prize, and from Sundance, where it played to critical acclaim.

It likely also benefited from its online preview on Cdiscount.com, where it attracted 3,500 viewers in the seven hours it was available.

The sneak peek certainly caught the attention of angry exhibitors.

Regulated by the government, exhibitors, DVD distribs and TV channels each have their own window of exclusivity. Films must be shown first in theaters, with free VOD coming four years later.

So Memento tore up the rulebook by making “Amreeka” available for free online to the first 10,000 viewers two days before the bow.

“It’s difficult to release a first film without a name cast and build enough profile to help the film hold over from first-week play,” said Alexandre Mallet-Guy, Memento Films’ topper.

“We wanted to test if we could build a solid word of mouth via Cdiscount.com, which has hundreds of thousands of subscribers.”

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