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‘Revenge’ of Quebec exhibbers

Theater owners call Lucas, 20th Century unreasonable

TORONTO — It’s déjà vu as dozens of independent theater operators in the province of Quebec are refusing to book “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” because of what they call unreasonable demands from George Lucas and distrib 20th Century Fox.

Exhibitors must screen “Sith” in their largest cinema for 12 consecutive weeks. For the first two weeks the studio takes 70% of receipts, and 65% for the next three.

Blockbusters usually unspool on an exhibitor’s largest screen for four weeks, after which it’s up to the manager’s discretion, and the studio’s B.O. take slips more quickly, from 70% the first week to 60% the second, 50%, 40% and then 35% on the fifth week.

Feisty French Canadians have never been slow to take up a fight when displeased.

Two years ago “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” opened on just 86 screens after most of the province’s independent theater owners took part in a boycott for similar reasons.

At the time, cinema owners expressed concern that these inflated demands would become the norm for blockbusters.

Fewer theater operators are participating in the boycott this time and some 50 screens are affected out of Quebec’s total of 800. Fox is providing 100 to 130 prints in the province.

“The position of the independents is that the complexes are a lot smaller than cinemas in the big cities and if you have to keep the film in the biggest hall for a few weeks it’s a real problem,” said Simon Beaudry, prexy of Cineac, a Montreal B.O.-tracking firm.

(Brendan Kelly in Montreal contributed to this report.)