'Alice in Wonderland' window grows smaller

Disney will release film in U.K. for 12 weeks, down from 17

LONDON -- Walt Disney Studios plans to cut the theatrical window in the U.K. for its March 5 release of Tim Burton's 3D spectacular "Alice iIn Wonderland" to 12 weeks in a bid to take advantage of the May school half-term and avoid the sales doldrums caused by the World Cup soccer tournament.

The proposed cut from 17 weeks to 12 has been communicated widely to the exhibition industry, sources said.

It will be welcomed by home entertainment retailers, which have long argued for video releases to be closer to theatrical to take advantage of the greater promotional buzz.

Cinema owners, however, are said to be mulling individual action against Disney, according to industry insiders who suggested that they are prepared to drop the movie entirely.

Disney representatives declined comment but Phil Clapp, chief executive of the Cinema Exhibitors' Assn., confirmed that the issue is being debated.

"We are aware that discussions are underway between the major circuits and Disney over the booking of 'Alice,' " he said. "As ever, this is a commercial consideration for each company and they will each make a decision based on the outcome of those discussions."

Clapp went on the reiterate the CEA's support for the current release window and he said that any alterations to the 17-week standard must be on a film-by-film basis.

Studios have long been pushing for greater flexibility over windows and it was suggested in some quarters that the Video On Demand window would also be moved up on "Alice."