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What’s the best way to measure windows?

The National Assn. of Theater Owners maintains that one should assess them by focusing on the big picture — not just the biggest pictures. The exhib org says Daily Variety’s recent analysis of theatrical windows for movies generating more than $50 million at the box office focused on the negative side of the coin.

According to NATO’s latest research, the average theatrical movie window last year was 4 months, 16 days, a four-day (2.8%) drop from the previous year.

Last year’s research won’t be considered final until the summer, however, because the org does not include any movie still in theatrical release. That means the March 1 tally does not include “Walk the Line” or “King Kong,” two of the shortest windows in 2005 according to Daily Variety‘s analysis, or “Cheaper by the Dozen 2,” which has an above average window at 153 days, or roughly five months.

NATO topper John Fithian acknowledges that the windows for the biggest movies shrank in 2005, and indeed NATO latest research, again dating to March 1, shows a 15 day, or 10%, average window drop to 4 months 14 days for movies grossing more than $50 million. “That’s the bad news,” he said.

Daily Variety research, which includes all movies grossing more than $50 million at the B.O., shows comparable results to NATO’s latest results.

Fithian acknowledges “an intelligent argument can be made for focusing on the biggest pictures” but says there aren’t enough numbers in that segment to account for seasonality and other factors.

“The theatrical release window is vitally important to the motion picture industry,” Fithian stressed, pointing out that the org has been tracking this window for 10 years.

NATO is currently tracking 168 pics released by the major studios and their divisions in 2005. The number of pics debuting in 2005 that made more than $50 million was 56 , according to Daily Variety research; that compares to 64 in 2004 and 58 in 2003.

Fithian also objected to the inclusion of older Kagan projections for films grossing more than $10 million at the B.O. in the March 22 story, included because they appeared to dovetail with Daily Variety’s analysis.