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Trade industry publication The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that several movie theater chains are dropping Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 3D from their showtimes due to the studio's decision to release the movie too soon after its theatrical release.
The animated movie was released in theaters on September 18th and is still playing in first-run theaters, but Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has decided to make the movie available for download on December 8th, only 82 days later. This is much sooner than the typical 100-120 day timeframe between the theatrical and home video releases.
In contrast, Disney/Pixar's animated movie Up was released this week on DVD and Blu-ray, a full 165 days after its May 29th theatrical release date. 20th Century Fox's animated Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs had a 118 day release window. Paramount, however, made a stir of its own by releasing G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra on home video last week, only 88 days after its August theatrical release.
The download rental will be available to owners of Sony Bravia TV's and networked Sony Blu-ray players at the "bargain" price of $24.95. The movie will be released on DVD and Blu-ray January 4, 2010. While the potential audience for the early release is relatively small, I'm sure that movie theaters see this as yet another step towards having to compete against home video after a long history of exclusivity.
According to the article, theaters operated by Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, and Marcus Theatres will be dropping the movie as a result of Sony's action. A quick comparison of showtimes for the 2D and 3D versions of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs shows that while the movie is showing in plenty of locations today, those same locations do not have the movie listed in their showtimes for Friday.
This move by Sony is the latest in a series of salvos by studios against movie theaters. The release window has been gradually shrinking, and some studios have done simultaneous releases on DVD, Video on Demand, Cable/Satellite, and in theaters. We see this trend continuing, since many movies don't make a large majority of their profits during their theatrical run, and studios always chase the money.
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What do you think?
Does tightening the release window make you skip the theater and wait to watch a movie at home? Are these movie theater chains overreacting, or do they have a legitimate gripe with Sony? If forced to compete more directly with home video, do the theaters you frequent deliver a unique and valuable experience over and above what you could get by staying home?
Let us know by adding your comments below!
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