LONDON — Independent movie theater owners in Germany, who are boycotting Disney-Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” may extend the action to target other movies distributed by Disney, including “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
The theater owners, who control almost 700 screens, are boycotting “Avengers: Age of Ultron” as a protest against what they see as punitive booking terms. They claimed that Disney raised its rental fee from 47.7% to 53% of ticket sales, according to broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Disney has also cut its contribution to advertising costs, and done away with advances for 3-D glasses, the exhibitors claimed.
“Approaching the industry with these conditions is completely unusual and, for me, a scandal,” said Andreas Kramer from industry lobby group Hauptverband Deutscher Filmtheater.
The indie exhibitors, most of which own theaters in smaller towns, claim that these increased fees, coupled with the cost of digitization, and rising staff and marketing costs may force some of them out of business.
Karl-Heinz Meier of I.G. Nord, which represents theater owners in Northern Germany, said: “We are worried — particularly about Eastern Germany. When prices go up, then we have a serious problem that could force movie theaters to close.” The exhibitors would be willing to accept an increase of the rental fee to 50% of ticket sales, but no higher, he said.
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Other protests could follow, with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” among the targets. “The new ‘Star Wars’ film is coming out at the end of the year. Disney manages its distribution — things could get interesting,” Meier said.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” debuted to a massive $201.2 million across 44 international territories this weekend.