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http://comicbook.com/starwars/2017/11/01/star-wars-the-last-jedi-boycott-small-theater/
Lucasfilm's latest entry in the Star Wars saga is guaranteed to be a huge hit at the box office, so why would some theaters refuse to play it?

Apparently, Disney's conditions for theaters screening Star Wars: The Last Jedi include unprecedented demands, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.

The House of Mouse has become one of the most successful movie studios on the planet and are able to increase their demands for theaters that want to screen their films. And their demands for the new Star Wars movie are being called by theater owners "the most onerous they’ve ever seen."

Disney is requiring 65 percent of the revenue from ticket sales from theaters, up from 64 percent for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. They're also requiring theaters play the film in their largest auditorium for at least four weeks, while other Disney movies are typically in that space for two weeks.

But if a theater were to break any part of the agreement, that increase would jump 5 points to a whopping 70 percent. That means if a theater agrees to air the film on eight screens for the first four weeks, but drops one of them before that time because the tickets aren't selling enough to justify it, they will be penalized.

The report states that studios generally get about 55 percent to 60 percent of the revenue from domestic screenings, and about 40 percent overseas.

Now, these aren't the worst terms for large cities and big theater chains considering Star Wars: The Last Jedi is going to be a record-breaking hit. But when it comes to smaller theaters in smaller markets, there's little incentive to play it.

A small town with a two-screen theater might not see the film with these conditions. If they're forced to keep Star Wars: The Last Jedi playing for a month when they could be using that screen for newer films, they could end up losing money anyways.

It's an interesting predicament and it certainly doesn't look good for Disney at this point. But given their status and success in the industry, they might be the only studio able to make such demands.

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There are 35 Replies

Just like big companies don't think of little employees, big companies also don't think of their little customers. What Disney doesn't understand is, most of the US is small customers, and starwars just isn't popular enough to draw people to make long trips just to see the movie. Now, top that off with it being in theaters in December. How many people in northern states are going to drive from their tiny towns to big cities just to watch yet another starwars movie?

Disney got too big for its britches again. Maybe Disney will then try to revive wing commander.

Posted November 2nd by Kohlrak
Kohlrak

Not surprising. Disney bought Star Wars because it was an investment. They're going to try to wring as much money out of it as fast as possible.

Posted November 2nd by nullfather
nullfather

I dont see a problem. They want to make more money.

Posted November 2nd by s.o.h.
s.o.h.
 

The problem is, they're less likely to make it. The other people who want to make more money will see they loose out on this deal in smaller areas, which means they won't play it. And doing so in the winter doesn't help the people that will play it, since small town people are less likely to drive into a city when there's snow on the ground, especially when alot of people have full time jobs. So, sure, Disney wants to make more money, but in the end this won't work out.

Posted November 2nd by Kohlrak
Kohlrak

yeah the motive isn't really the issue. just laughing at htem shooting themselves int he foot like htis.

Posted November 2nd by tnu
tnu

starwars just isn't popular enough to draw people to make long trips just to see the movie.


I think it's more popular than you think it is and that some smaller theatres not showing it will have minimal, if any, impact of how many people end up watching it. It probably wouldn't be anywhere near enough to offset the money they will actually make from this move.

I dont see a problem. They want to make more money.


That in itself is a pretty big problem. They already make massive amounts of money from these things, whereas cinemas make basically nothing off of the ticket sales.

I also happen to really like my local cinema, but it's becoming pretty clear they are struggling to make a profit because the ticket prices are now pretty much double the cost of a big cinema in the nearest city (20-30 minutes drive away).

So this kind of move by a big company, who is attempting to use it's popular franchises (Marvel & Star Wars) to bully theatres around, is a bad thing.

Posted November 2nd by Redack
Redack
One Vision, One Purpose!

I think it's more popular than you think it is and that some smaller theatres not showing it will have minimal, if any, impact of how many people end up watching it. It probably wouldn't be anywhere near enough to offset the money they will actually make from this move.


Some? How about most. It's not economically viable for small theaters: once everyone's seen it, it's just taking up time and space for another movie that people haven't seen. And no one in their right mind would drive 30 minutes or longer in the snow just to see a movie that will eventually be on netflix/vudu/video.

So this kind of move by a big company, who is attempting to use it's popular franchises (Marvel & Star Wars) to bully theatres around, is a bad thing.


Sometimes i wonder if they're actually this stupid or if it's a part of Agenda 21.

Posted November 2nd by Kohlrak
Kohlrak

Some? How about most.


Remains to be seen.

And no one in their right mind would drive 30 minutes or longer in the snow just to see a movie that will eventually be on netflix/vudu/video.


So does it typically snow so bad in America during December that people are unwilling to make short journeys to do stuff that they want to do? Does it typically last for the whole month? Do people just not go anywhere in December...

I think you're basing this too much on yourself. A lot of people will watch the movie just so they have watched it and can be up to date on the latest conversations. Even if it means travelling to do so. It may be on streaming services next year, but people will want to see it now.

I get the impression that you don't particularly care for Star Wars, which is fair enough, but your false assumption that it isn't popular enough is in my experience just wrong. The only time I have seen cinemas near me packed full is when the last two Star Wars movies came out. If the small local cinemas closed or didn't show it, I guarantee most of these people would travel to watch it. (and the nearest big cinema to me is 30ish minutes away (potentially longer if traffic is bad).

This really isn't a bad move for Disney but, as I said earlier, it is a bad thing for local cinemas that they are getting squeezed more and more.

Posted November 2nd by Redack
Redack
One Vision, One Purpose!

"What Disney doesn't understand is, most of the US is small customers, and starwars just isn't popular enough to draw people to make long trips just to see the movie."

That's just not correct at all:
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/21/movies/star-wars-the-force-awakens-shatters-box-office-records.html


Edited November 2nd by Q
Q
 

This is unsurprising to hear, and has been a trend from major studios for major releases for a long time at this point. The sad reality is that smaller theaters - particularly ones that are not major, nation-wide cinema chains (like Cinemark/Rave/Tinseltown corporate theaters) - are constantly screwed over by film studios. Fewer theaters carrying Star Wars won't impact Disney at all. It impacts the theaters. 65% of opening weekend grosses is disgusting and extortion, but that in and of itself likely wouldn't "ruin" a theater, even a small one. It shouldn't be surprising to hear that a movie theater - even the chains - primarily make money off of concessions, memberships (if they do membership subscription programs), and donations, with a bit of change coming from advertisement. (Safe to assume corporate theaters make more from advertising given they're courting other major corporations like Coca-Cola and Sony, rather than the local businesses in the area, which a lot of small theaters do.) 65% is not ideal, but the amount of traffic a Star Wars film will bring for at least one week would probably still be good for any theater, given how much concession products they'll likely push. But I mean, it's hard not to think of how insane it is that a film could gross $10,000 in a week, but that theater only gets to keep $3,500. Ok, maybe that sounds like a bit of money, but remember that that $3,500 would have to cover the increase in staffing a popular movie like Star Wars will require, any and all bills you normally pay, any fees to the booker, and the fact that no one wants to open a movie opposite Star Wars, so it's not like any other movie will really be adding to your income. It might sound like a lot, but 35% of whatever Star Wars will gross in its opening weekend will not really go *that* far for a theater.

The bigger issue, however, is those terms. A minimum of a four week, full-run engagement in and of itself can be brutal. Literally every film that gets a nation-wide release sees a noticeable dip in attendance every week. The Force Awakens, for example, saw a 33% drop in box office grosses from Week 1 to Week 2. And then saw a 54% drop from Week 2 to Week 3. And then a 53% drop from Week 3 to Week 4. Rogue One dropped 30% after its first week, 62% after its second, and 32% after its third.

While major chains that function as multiplexes often have dozens of screens so keeping a film for a full slate of showtimes for a month might not be that big of a deal (since they have the space), that is obviously killer for a smaller theater that might only have two or three screens. Even more is the fact the terms will require it take up the largest auditorium for that entire period. That limits what the theater can do pretty dramatically. If they open any new movies three weeks after Star Wars comes out, they can't try to maximize those because they won't be able to open them in their biggest or most appealing screening rooms. If it's a small theater that also relies on being able to conduct special events, one-time screenings, or repertoire films, you are at risk to being punished extra hard. Let's say you want to do a day of It's A Wonderful Life (since it is December, so the holiday season will see demand for such a film). Say it's something you know at least one show will sell out of, or come close to. But you can't put it in your biggest auditorium because Disney demands Stars Wars be playing there in week three, which sees attendance drop to a shell of its opening weekend by that point.

It's just strangling to small theaters. Especially when you consider that Star Wars is going to get released to over 4,000 theaters across the country, those are demands that effectively major, large theater chains can only really deal with. Not only does attendance inherently drop pretty substantially from week to week; you've also got more theaters showing it. That also inherently spreads out the audience across a lot more theaters.

This is not unusual for studios. Sony took something like 63% of opening weekend grosses for Spider-man 3 back in the day. That rate changed to an even 50-50 split in its second weekend. Attendance dropped just over 60% in its second weekend. So by the time we could make money off of the film itself, no one was going to it.

It's effectively extortion, and given how corporate everything has to be, one almost wonders how long before Disney someday just works out some major corporate deal with a major, national theater chain to exclusively get Star Wars or Marvel films. This kind of shit is actively undermining the anti-monopoly laws (there's a reason movie studios aren't supposed to own or operate theaters themselves). But the more they seek to squeeze little theaters out of existence, the closer they get to working out some corporate conglomerate that works primarily for a small few major corporations.




So does it typically snow so bad in America during December that people are unwilling to make short journeys to do stuff that they want to do? Does it typically last for the whole month? Do people just not go anywhere in December...


It can snow so badly in some parts that people get basically stuck in for a few days. But the snow tends to actually make people want to get out *more.* There are several reasons why December and winter has turned into a key time of major releases for film studios. We always get a huge Hollywood blockbuster released for the holiday season (since people aren't working or kids are out of school). And winter is Oscar season in full.



And no one in their right mind would drive 30 minutes or longer in the snow just to see a movie that will eventually be on netflix/vudu/video.


Maybe not millennials (but I sure hope they do), but there is still no shortage of people who would rather see a film on the big screen with an awesome audio system. Especially in the age of digital cinema, for a lot of people, there's still no comparison. I have a pretty great television and I love watching movies on it, but I *have* driven longer distances than half an hour to see a film on the big screen. I mean, I *just* drove over three hours to see a special screening of Shaun of the Dead, when I've owned that movie on blu-ray for, god, well over a decade at this point. We just showed The Thing and people came down from Vermont, over an hour away. The issue isn't that people won't drive half an hour to see something that will eventually be on Netflix or Hulu is a slightly false dichotomy. It's that people won't drive 30 minutes to see a movie that's playing at a closer theater because the film has opened across 4,000 theaters. I guarantee that if a film like The Last Jedi opened in fewer theaters across the country, you would have no shortage of individuals driving longer distances to go see it.



Edited November 2nd by Jet Presto
Jet Presto

I definitely agree with Redack and Jet about the hurt really just hitting the small theaters, because I am certainly willing to drive 30 minutes or more to see a Star Wars movie at the theater. The only reason I wouldn't drive that far is if there was a freaking blizzard. But the usual snowfall? Hell no.

Posted November 2nd by Trever Leingod
Trever Leingod

I'm telling you guys right now:

Snow is no match for the power of the Dark Side. Just look at the battle of Hoth.

Posted November 2nd by Q
Q
 

Huh. I've never heard of a studio being so demanding as to make it unviable for a smaller theater to show their film...at least not for a film of this overwhelming popularity. I suppose I'll have to check to see if mine is offering it, though this is one of the larger cities in a very rural area, so if it's not I may not see it in theaters at all. I'd do it if it were a 30-minute drive for sure, though--it would be even longer than that in all likelihood if my local theater isn't showing it, and most of the people I'd want to watch it with have moved out of the area in the past year!

Posted November 2nd by white lancer
white lancer
 

I assure you, this is a thing here in large part because it's been going on for a while. There might be some additional, new demands for The Last Jedi (like the requiring the largest auditorium for four weeks, whereas before it might have just been two weeks), but this behavior is not new for major film studios. Definitely not new for Disney. I think this is an issue here because it has been going on for decades, and small theaters are getting fed up (if not run out of business).

Posted November 2nd by Jet Presto
Jet Presto

Yeah, I don't doubt that it's been going on a while. I've just never heard of it actually resulting in major films being held out of a bunch of theaters--seems like a pretty serious deal if that happens.

Posted November 2nd by white lancer
white lancer
 

Mostly, it's been more that smaller theaters have just not been able to stay in business more than they merely choose to not get the biggest films of the year.

Posted November 2nd by Jet Presto
Jet Presto

Especially in the age of digital cinema, for a lot of people, there's still no comparison


VR Cinema is pretty equivalent. There's a trade-off between being about to sit wherever you want and no noise but having this big clunky thing on your head.

It'll take a while for the technology to slim down and become more mainstream.

Posted November 2nd by Xhin
Xhin
 

Also more on topic, this is a case of small businesses shooting themselves in the foot, not Disney. If they boycott, they're literally giving pretty much their entire customer base an opportunity to find something better. Chains that will show star wars will exploit this to advertise themselves as better experiences during this time period.

Posted November 2nd by Xhin
Xhin
 

starwars just isn't popular enough to draw people to make long trips just to see the movie

i agree most people never heard of star wars i didnt even know was star wars was until i saw this psot

Posted November 2nd by Brandy
Brandy

VR Cinema is pretty equivalent. There's a trade-off between being about to sit wherever you want and no noise but having this big clunky thing on your head.



Not really. I mean, I'm pretty all in on VR as a format for entertainment experiences, but there are some pretty huge artistic obstacles unrelated to the technological ones that make VR fundamentally different than cinema. (I want to try and be careful to separate those terms, because I do not think VR Cinema is the same thing as Cinema.) Cinema is meant to be a "passive" format. Viewers go along for the journey that a filmmaker wants them to experience. Every individual member of an audience might take something different away in their interpretation, and filmmakers might even explicitly design their film to cover a broad and diverse group of potential take-aways, but this happens because the filmmaker very deliberately chooses what to put in the film for us to see. Cinema is not an interactive format in the sense that viewers can choose mid-movie what to see. While we can point to bad directors like Michael Bay who often throw so much crap indiscriminately on the screen so viewers aren't entirely sure where to look, so their eyes dart around the screen (which is bad filmmaking and bad cinema), it's still ultimately an unchangeable set of actions occurring on screen.

This is very different than having something wherein viewers can look behind them, or above them, or below them. Those experiences are super cool, and I've experienced a number of great VR experiences that border on "cinematic," but are very different experiences and formats. By virtue of being VR, where filmmakers now have to think about above you, below you, or behind you, there is always going to be something happening that you miss. Throw something happening behind the viewer, well, now you have to make sure that literally nothing happens in front of them because you can't have someone looking in two places at once. If you balance that properly - which is a pretty big if and will require a ton of extra work for ultimately little payoff for a movie - you then have to work even harder to ensure the viewer actually does turn to look behind them when you want them to. With Cinema, the filmmaker can ensure that so long as the audience member is actually watching the screen, they will get everything they need for the story, character developments, action, and experience. With VR Cinema, you will have problems with audience members turning late and missing a central part of the action, which inherently weakens the narrative experience.

Again, I'm all in on VR. You don't need to sell me on it as a powerful player in the world of entertainment experiences, especially as the technology improves and becomes more affordable. But you don't do anything in VR for the same reason you watch a movie. Even Hollywood action flicks where you think you're just going in for mindless action will ultimately suffer. VR is not a replacement for Cinema.


this is a case of small businesses shooting themselves in the foot, not Disney.


Maybe. Probably winds up being different if you look at the short term versus the long term. A small, two-screen theater might make a good amount of money in Week 1 off the opening weekend, but then lose out on more money for being able to open more things or reduce showtimes for other films, or otherwise have the ability to put films in screening rooms that make sense over the course of the subsequent three weeks. For a small theater, four weeks is an eternity to not have any real control over what you can show, when you can show it, and where you can play it. I managed a two-screen cinema for a couple years, and I gotta tell ya, given who generally makes up the bulk of movie-going audiences, the types of films they see in December, and how quickly Hollywood blockbusters die down, I would probably rather have the ability to change up my schedule during the month and get new movies in for a more consistent weekly draw than agree to Disney's terms here. I'd rather have the consistent audience that rotating films brings over the course of four weeks than one great weekend followed by dead air.

Also, just kind of thinking about it more, this could potentially hurt Disney in the sense that if enough theaters boycott, the lack of those screens could hurt Disney's chances at breaking box office records. Disney and other major studios loooove opening on as many screens as possible because it increases the chances of breaking opening weekend records. (The reason they care about opening weekend, of course, being that's when they skim the most off the top from theaters and distributors.) Major chains can't necessarily make up the difference because they will have their own obligations to other studios because of their demands. (Seriously, I don't think people really understand just how much running a theater is essentially just diplomacy, constantly building and maintaining relationships with studios and distributors. It's kind of a nutso industry.)



Posted November 2nd by Jet Presto
Jet Presto

So if they decide to boycott Disney and not show Star Wars, are they prepared to not show any Marvel movies either? I'm pretty sure that it would lead it that.

Posted November 2nd by Q
Q
 

To add to the VR thing: you also encounter an accessibility issue with VR. As far as how accessible it is to the general audience, it's actually going to be just as bad - if not worse - than modern 3D, which often makes people feel ill, feel strain in their eyes, or give viewers headaches. With VR, you add motion sickness to the equation. So apart from the fact that VR Cinema will increase the cost of seeing a movie (and you better believe studios and theaters will use that to increase ticket prices), you also see an inherent drop in the number of people who will actually be able to use it for a feature-length experience. It'll make money, and there will be plenty of people who can handle it and prefer it, but it can never come anywhere near the ubiquitous nature of Cinema.

Posted November 2nd by Jet Presto
Jet Presto

So if they decide to boycott Disney and not show Star Wars, are they prepared to not show any Marvel movies either? I'm pretty sure that it would lead it that.


Maybe. At the same time, I don't think Disney would be too eager to lose those screens to competition. Like if a theater skips on Thor Ragnarok to ensure they get Justice League a couple weeks later, that could send a message to Sony or Fox to start releasing stuff more competitively, if they think they can actually take screens away from Disney.

(That also is something to note about how crazy the business is. A theater opting to pass on a big studio film might subsequently be denied future films as "punishment." You might be surprised how often theaters actually have to agree to take a film they don't have any desire to show later in the year in exchange to get the film they want to show now. Studios can seriously be the worst. Which I will always be happy to talk about given that being on the "front lines" as a theater, it's the theaters that often get blamed for things, like poor showtimes or expensive tickets/concessions, or bad programming. Many theaters fuck those up in their own right, to be sure, but there's actually not anywhere near as much room to navigate freely as people assume.)

Posted November 2nd by Jet Presto
Jet Presto

It will also depend on the film itself. If Disney thinks the next Marvel movie - if it's something like an Ant-Man - might struggle a bit, they won't be too keen to use that for leverage to force theaters to show a film they can reliably bank on. If it's something like the next Avengers film, they would probably be more than willing to use that.

You cannot ever truly underestimate how much studios want to make on the opening weekend. Whether they're chasing records or not, that is often all they care about in terms of how a film does in the end.

Posted November 2nd by Jet Presto
Jet Presto

@Jet Presto: I wasn't referring to 3D immersive VR cinema experiences, I was referring to the VR apps that let you see a regular movie like you're in a theater. If the head tracking is accurate enough it feels pretty much like the real thing, aside from the clunky thing sitting on your head.

Posted November 3rd by Xhin
Xhin
 

Do you guys think that seeing a movie in a theater is that much better than at home on your big screen HDTV?

I mean, to me seeing a movie at home is better as you can be more comfortable and don't have to worry about people standing up in your way to go pee. or if they do you can pause it lol.

Edited November 3rd by Q
Q
 

To me, yes. I will almost always prefer watching a film in a theater than at home if given the chance. I will never be able to afford a screen as big, or a sound system as good as a theater.

Posted November 3rd by Jet Presto
Jet Presto

If the head tracking is accurate enough it feels pretty much like the real thing, aside from the clunky thing sitting on your head.


That, right now, is still a pretty big if. I, for one, would rather not have to wear a big head set to watch a 2+ hour film. I would also generally prefer not to have the screen three inches from my eyes because it strains them too much for prolonged use. There will always be an issue with VR, like with 3D, that limits its accessibility because of its physiological impact on many viewers that you don't get with a normal theatrical experience.

Posted November 3rd by Jet Presto
Jet Presto

"To me, yes. I will almost always prefer watching a film in a theater than at home if given the chance. I will never be able to afford a screen as big, or a sound system as good as a theater. "

Maybe you wouldn't need to get that big of a tv but instead get your own projector, which you can get for around $100-200. And you can generally get a pretty decent 5 speaker surround sound for a decent price. But if you prefer theaters those probably wont do it for you.

Posted November 3rd by Q
Q
 

Not to mention, bulbs are expensive and I would need to figure out and maintain a surface to project the image onto. Especially in the age of digital cinema, there is no way I can replicate the visual and audio experience of a theater without putting in a sizeable chunk of cash.

Posted November 3rd by Jet Presto
Jet Presto

Well really you could just paint a wall in your house white and project your image on that. But I get what you are saying. Well I guess you wont be staying home when star wars comes out lol

Posted November 3rd by Q
Q
 

There will always be an issue with VR

No there won't. Once the technology becomes more mainstream they can shrink it and fix the eye strain issue.

Posted November 3rd by Xhin
Xhin
 

No, there is always going to be the potential for eye strain when you're putting illuminated lenses that close to the eye. The technology will never be so good that it isn't going to be a problem for some. Additionally, you will also still have a problem with motion. Because the "screen" is affixed to the head, every time you move your head, the screen is also going to move. I don't know if you've ever had everything around you literally move with your head so as to "stay level," but it actually is a bit off-putting. If you turn your head slightly, the screen is going to move as well. They could potentially try to make it so that the image stays still and acts like a normal screen, but what's the point of wearing a VR headset if that's how you do it? But the alternative is having the screen and image constantly rotate and move to match the viewer's head movements.


Well really you could just paint a wall in your house white and project your image on that.


Could. But apart from not really having available wall space for projection, you will have an inherent loss of image quality. It would make more sense to just buy a nice television.

Posted November 3rd by Jet Presto
Jet Presto

Seeing a movie on a theaters big screen is infintely better than watching it at home.

There are some movies that need to be seen on the large screen. I would have regretted not seeing movies like hacksaw ridge, Pacific rim, fury or interstellar on the big screen.

Posted November 3rd by A.o.h.
A.o.h.
 

Completely agree. I've enjoyed revisiting all of those films at home, but it's important to recognize that many filmmakers still inherently build their films around the idea that people are seeing them on a giant screen. (Pacific Rim is a great example. The way Del Toro cleverly shoots it in the flat 1.85 aspect ratio to maximize the height of the theater screens goes a long way to giving everything an adequate sense of scale. You still get that to some extent at home, but hardly to the same degree.)

Posted November 3rd by Jet Presto
Jet Presto
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