Apple iTunes Sales of Disney Titles Briefly Frozen in Japan

Disagreement may have stemmed from revenue-sharing terms

HONG KONG — Sell-through retail sales and rentals of Disney’s latest movies were halted for about a day this week on Apple’s iTunes service in Japan.

According to a statement on Disney’s Japanese website both rental and download-to-own sales were halted Tuesday.

A Disney spokesman in Tokyo told Variety that both services were restarted Wednesday. An Apple rep declined to comment.

The Disney spokesman explained that the interruption was due to difficulties negotiating the renewal of the old contract between Apple and Disney Japan. The new contract was signed on Wednesday, after which both rentals and electronic-sell-through options returned to normal.

The original contract took effect in November 2010 and expired July 8, 2014. The dispute affected online sales of films including “Frozen” and “Thor: The Dark World.” But the Disney spokesman denied that the contract negotiations were affected by the ongoing theatrical release of “Frozen.”

“Frozen” is Disney’s biggest film of all time in Japan and last weekend stood at No. 3 in the weekly box office chart, having grossed a cumulative $242 million.

While DVD sales are now tailing off, Japan has remained one of the markets where packaged media has shown ongoing resilience. In contrast, online video has been slower to take off in Japan than in many other territories.

“Frozen” has already clocked up 1.15 million DVD and Blu-ray Disc pre-orders.

Mark Schilling in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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