NATO guards its windows

Exhibitors show displeasure over debate in ad

The National Assn. of Theater Owners wants to make sure studios understand its position with regard to the recent debate over shortened theatrical windows.

In an advertisement placed Wednesday in Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, NATO, along with its European equivalent, UNIC, described the discussion of shortened windows and price points as “a potentially destabilizing change in the existing windows platform.”

The ad comes after Time Warner Cable’s recent call for a premium priced video-on-demand platform, as well as the FCC’s approval of Selectable Output Control technology meant to prevent piracy. Ad suggests the platforms would disrupt established theatrical

windows on the exhib side.

“While exhibitors understand the new pressures that a weakened DVD market creates for their studio partners, four decades of box office growth and three straight years of record-breaking theatrical box office argue for caution in tampering with a business model that clearly works,” the ad stated.

UNIC echoed those sentiments: “Whether as a response to increasingly fragile DVD income or in an attempt to thwart piracy, such developments should not occur at the expense of the one part of the value chain which undoubtedly works — theatrical exhibition.”

While it’s unclear how studios will respond, studio insiders suggest shortened theatrical windows will happen on a film-by-film basis without prior publicity. Disney and Warners received flak from some exhibs when they announced they would bow “Alice in Wonderland” and “Clash of the Titans,” respectively, on DVD before the traditional 120-day window.

Studio sources and exhibs agree they’d prefer not to debate the issue through the media, with NATO saying, “Public negotiation creates confusion and bad blood between partners.”

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