MONTREAL — Most of Quebec’s independent exhibitors are refusing to book “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones,” because they are unhappy with the stringent demands of distributor 20th Century Fox.
Pic will open today on only 86 screens and will not unspool at all in many parts of the province due to the dispute. In comparison, “Spider-Man” launched on 189 Quebecois screens.
The large cinema chains — including Famous Players, Cineplex Odeon and Guzzo — will play the George Lucas pic, but it will run on almost none of the 363 independent screens.
Fox is believed to be demanding 70% of box office receipts for the first three weeks and insisting that “Attack of the Clones” stay in the biggest hall for 12 weeks.
The studio-theater revenue split is more commonly 70-30 in favor of the studio for only the first week, dropping to 60-40 the second week, 50-50 the third week and 40-60 by the fourth week.
Some cinema owners fear Lucas’ demands will become the norm for blockbusters.
The other twist to the “Star Wars” saga in Quebec is the imminent release of French-lingo hit “Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra.”
The high-profile sequel is one of the top grossers in French cinema and should be huge in the province.
It comes out May 31, just two weeks after “Attack of the Clones.” If exhibs sign with Fox, they will be stuck with the Lucas pic in their marquee hall, relegating “Asterix” to a smaller theater.
Simon Beaudry, of Montreal box office tracker Alex Films, said the dispute with the cinema owners will ensure that, even if it’s a hot draw, “Attack of the Clones” will at best do half of “Spider-Man’s” opening-weekend business in Quebec, where the Tobey Maguire starrer grossed a record-breaking C$2.3 million ($1.5 million).