Studio says early release is an exception

Extending an olive branch to theater owners, Paramount says the decision to release “G.I. Joe” on DVD so quickly after its theatrical run — a little more than three months — is an exception, not a policy change.

Pic will be released on DVD Nov. 3, or 12½ weeks after it unspooled in theaters on Aug. 7. Exhibs generally insist on a four-month window between theatrical and DVD release date. Par’s decision is sure to be a hot topic today as exhibitors and distributors gather in Orlando, Fla., for annual ShowEast confab.

The “G.I. Joe” move is the latest by studios to tweak conventional DVD windows. Warners and other distribs have tightened the period between DVD release and VOD availability on several major titles, while studios are reluctant to let Redbox start renting discount DVD titles on the same day as more lucrative sellthrough pics.

And for several years, Disney CEO Bob Iger has proposed ways to change DVD windows for Mouse titles.

In an effort to assuage exhib concerns, Paramount did agree to push back the DVD launch of Jeremy Piven laffer “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” from Nov. 11 to late November. Had the release date stayed the same, “Live Hard” would have come out only 12½ weeks after its Aug. 24 release.

“I think ultimately, Paramount remains committed to separate DVD and theatrical windows, and completely committed to protecting the moviegoing theatrical experience,” Paramount vice chair Rob Moore said.

Windows are often a hot topic when exhibs and distribs convene, along with piracy and, more recently, 3D.

Whenever a studio releases a DVD less than four months after its launch at the box office, the National Assn. of Theater Owners sends out an alert to its members, even though there is no hard-and-fast rule. This time, it was a double alert, since two titles were involved.

Par, besieged with calls from angry theater owners, held a number of discussions with exhibs. Studio told exhibs that “G.I. Joe’s” DVD launch was timed to the release of Hasbro’s corresponding toy line for the holiday season, and that it was the best thing for the franchise.

Studios aren’t required to abide by any window, but theaters owners have long forced the issue by threatening to reduce screen counts, or pull movies altogether.

The average theatrical-to-DVD window is four months; sometimes, a studio will pare that down to 13½ weeks, as Warner Bros. is doing with “Orphan” to capitalize on Halloween.

DVD sales have seen double-digit declines since the economic collapse, while the theatrical box office has been running at record-breaking gross levels all year, also a topic sure to be discussed at ShowEast, which runs through Thursday.

Par’s Moore is among those studio execs attending the confab, where his studio is screening George Clooney topliner “Up in the Air” for exhibs. Other titles screening at the confab include Sony’s “2012,” directed by Roland Emmerich, Lionsgate’s “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” and Apparition’s “The Young Victoria.”

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