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CinemaCon: Universal’s Fogelson Touts Year-Round Scheduling

Exec also pushes for narrower release windows

Addressing a longstanding complaint from theater owners, Universal Studios chairman Adam Fogelson declared that studios should mimic U’s strategy of releasing major titles all year — rather than opting for just the summer and holidays.

“There are very few reasons why almost any film can’t open any weekend,” he said during Wednesday’s “Meeting the Expectations of Today’s Savvy Moviegoer” at CinemaCon at Ceasars Palace in Las Vegas.

Fogelson said U lacks the “luxury” of having intellectual property-based films that tend to be placed in the prime summer and holiday slots — such as the “Harry Potter” and “Spider-Man” franchises. Instead, he noted Universal has seen outstanding grosses from the past two “Fast and Furious” entries, both of which opened in April with record-setting launch weekends above $70 million and $85 million respectively.

Fogelson cited 2005 horror movie “White Noise” (pictured), which opened on the first weekend in January to $24 million and went on to take in $55 million domestically. He said the only reason why films don’t open on such weekends is “historical behavior.”

Fogelson and Carmike Cinemas’ David Passman disagreed with the idea that an excess of R-rated films had held down grosses during the first quarter of this year.

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“Blaming R is overly simplistic,” Fogelson said, adding that “Django Unchained” and “Ted” would have been hits had they opened in January.

The panel included producer Michael De Luca, producer of adult-themed dramas “The Social Network,” “Moneyball,” “Captain Phillips” and the upcoming “50 Shades of Grey,” set at Universal.

De Luca said studios remain reluctant to greenlight such fare. “If one drama doesn’t work, there are no dramas that year,” De Luca said. “They are dropped off the development slate.”

Fogelson also revisited the notion of narrowed release windows — despite the problems that emerged two years ago when U attempted to show “Tower Heist” to Comcast customers a mere three weeks after its theatrical release. The studio ditched the idea in the face of strong opposition from exhibitors.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” he said, adding that sliding DVD sales are making it imperative for studios to recoup that lost revenue.

Fogelson stressed that exhibitors should not fear shorter windows, under which studios could offer a premium VOD version while a film is still in theaters — because it will serve the desires of the most avid consumers.

“Viewing begets more viewing,” he said and cited NBC’s Olympic programming on multiple platforms as driving more viewers into primetime network viewing.

Passman said the exhibitors are willing to search for common ground. “We need to jointly think of a way to grow the pie.”

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