Walking the Line23 Feb, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf
The scuttlebutt about Walk the Line and the fact that 20th Century Fox officially announced the street date for the title just a week or so before said street date may just be a little ado about nothing.
I think there were a confluence of events that led to the confusion, secrecy, whatever you want to call it, regarding Walk the Line's street date.
First of all, it's a great movie, really superb, one that had great word-of-mouth that warranted a stretching of its theatrical run.
It's also more than likely the studio had anticipated the film's Academy Award nominations and had already planned to schedule the DVD release to take full advantage of the Oscar festivities. Given that, if you take the traditional announce-release schedule, Fox would have been announcing the DVD right around the time the Academy Award nominations were unveiled. I understand the hesitation to steal thunder from the added box office push those noms can bring with a DVD announcement.
On a whim, I looked up some information on the film's box office status since the biopic hit theaters in late November Sure enough, from Jan. 20 through Feb. 5 — Walk the Line expanded into an additional 713 theaters, after nine weeks of declining screens. It's likely the prebook date would have fallen within that time frame (had the retail community officially “known” about the Feb. 28 street date).
I think it's fairly certain that certain retailers had a strong inkling as to when Walk the Line would grace their shelves. I don't think any of the major retailers are going to be in short supply of this major title come street date, even though Fox just “announced” the title last week.
But I really don't think there was anything nefarious in it. Why not try to throw as much weight toward the box-office expansion and let the natural promotional opportunity of the Oscars drive a renewed push to theaters? Why not hold off on heavily promoting the DVD release until every last drop of that push is milked through?
This isn't a unique occurrence; every year there are one or two titles that slip through the traditional video scheme around Awards season. To me, it makes sense. To retailers who may feel jipped or put out or maligned, I say, find a way to get the Walk the Line quantity you need and look at the extra theatrical run/announce delay as an added visibility boost for the DVD. This is one of those titles that is going to do well in all formats, regardless of when or how it comes out.