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Will Consumers Catch the New Pitch for Theaters?

30 Aug, 2005 By: Holly J. Wagner

It's been the talk of Hollywood all summer that box office receipts are down. Last week, CNN ran a weeklong series on why people aren't going to the movies, and Monday the Associated Press had a story about the idea of compressing release windows.

A lot of this is coming out of Disney CEO-elect Robert Iger's Aug. 8 comments to analysts that if consumers want the DVD while the movie is still in theaters, the industry has to consider it.

That triggered a press release from National Association of Theater Owners president John Fithian. He blamed the quality of the movies — and he is certainly at least partly right about that — for consumers not going to movie theaters.

But I think he also shot himself in the foot when he said, “DVDs that sell well benefit enormously from the advertising platform and national conversation generated by theatrical release.” I'm not disputing the truth of that, but I think it concedes that a theatrical release has been reduced to a commercial for the DVD.

Somebody on the theatrical side is getting wise. Monday morning on my way to work, I heard a new approach to movie advertising. It was a radio ad for The Constant Gardener, which looks like potentially one of the better movies this year. And at the end, instead of the familiar “Starts Friday at a theater near you,” the call-to-action line was different. This time it said, “Enjoy it on the big screen this weekend.”

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