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‘Fantasia’ signups get bigger

Disney to secure Imax bookings for New Year preem

Despite distribution terms that initially alarmed theater owners, Disney likely will secure at least 60-70 bookings in Imax theaters worldwide for the Jan. 1 opening of “Fantasia 2000.”

According to Imax co-CEO Richard Gelfond, about 30 theaters have committed to leasing “Fantasia.” “My best guess is that it (will reach) somewhere between 50 and 75,” Gelfond said, “and I think there’s some chance it could be up to 100.”

Although Disney isn’t aiming for any magic number, it will have nearly all the theater bookings in place over the next few months, according to Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group.

‘A lot of interest’

“There has clearly been a lot of interest (from the theaters),” he added.

Disney is asking theaters for 50% of the box office and 100% of the show schedule — meaning “Fantasia 2000” would be the only pic shown at each cinema. These terms were seen as too restrictive and, indeed, unacceptable by some Imax theater owners.

In the giant-screen industry, distributors normally receive about 15% of the box office, and no theater gives 100% of the show schedule to a single film.

Disney, however, feels justified in asking for a 50% box office cut since it’s paying for prints and all the marketing costs — expenses usually assumed by theaters, not distributors. The studio also feels that getting 100% of the show schedule is not asking too much.

But the restrictive terms will prevent some theaters from exhibiting “Fantasia,” according to Charlotte Lazenberry, film distribution manager for the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The museum’s Imax theater won’t be able to lease the Disney animated pic due to existing contracts with other distribs that would conflict with “Fantasia,” Lazenberry said.

‘Definite advantage’

Liz Bleiberg, exec VP of the Science Place in Dallas — the site of an Imax theater — claims she has no problem with Disney’s terms. “The numbers that we have run show that (they are) to our definite advantage.”

“We feel that the Disney halo is one that will shine over our site for long after the four months (of ‘Fantasia’ runs),” she added.

Another potential stumbling block in exhibiting “Fantasia” in Imax theaters was that the 90-minute length requires a larger film platter for projection, which many of the older theaters aren’t equipped to handle.

Imax Corp. has solved the problem by assuring Disney that if a theater chooses to lease “Fantasia,” it will retrofit the theater for the bigger film platter and cover expenses.

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