Fox resists a windows revision

Studio shifts German DVD release, stands ground in U.K.

20th Century Fox put a German release-window squabble to bed last week only to see another quickly fill the vacuum in the U.K.

On Thursday, the studio said that it has no plans to lengthen the window between theatrical and DVD release for "Night at the Museum" despite a decision by the major U.K. exhibition chains to pull the film from theaters (HR 2/2).

Major U.K. theater operators including Odeon and Vue, while remaining tight-lipped officially, have united in a show of strength against Fox's decision to shorten the release window for the Ben Stiller comedy. Both are pulling the picture from theaters in the wake of the studio's decision to collapse release windows to just 13 weeks between the movie's theatrical run and its proposed DVD release.

Fox said it does not plan to change its release strategy in reaction to pressure from exhibitors. The studio's position stands in stark contrast to its recent moves in Germany to settle a similar dispute.

"We are not going to change the window for ('Museum')," said Christian Grass, Fox executive vp for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "The decision taken on the window for this movie is based on seasonality and is a one-off. It was a Christmas release (in the U.K.), and we want to release it on DVD for Easter."

Representatives at the theater chains involved offered no official comment.

The move in the U.K. follows Fox's settling a similar dispute with local theater chains in Germany after they had pulled the Fox titles "Museum" and "John Tucker Must Die" from their schedules (HR 1/31).

At issue in Germany was the local DVD release of "Eragon." Fox had planned to bow the fantasy title in Germany on March 19, just three months after its German theatrical bow. Exhibitors demanded that Fox postpone the release, claiming that the earlier date would cut into boxoffice revenue.

When Fox stuck to its plan, German exhibitors ? including leading multiplex operators Cinestar, CinemaxX, Kinopolis, UCI and Cineplex ? pulled all Fox titles from their theaters.

The situation was resolved when Fox reached a deal that included pushing back "Eragon's" home video bow.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release the fantasy film on DVD in Germany on April 19, a full month later than originally planned.