Fox titles rebound after exhib dispute


COLOGNE, Germany -- 20th Century Fox titles "Night at the Museum" and "John Tucker Must Die" are set to bounce back in the German charts now that Fox has settled a dispute that saw local theater chains pull Fox films from their schedules.

At issue was the local DVD release of "Eragon."

Fox had planned to issue the fantasy DVD on March 19 in Germany, just three months after its theatrical bow here. Exhibitors demanded that Fox postpone the release, claiming 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 result was dramatic.

Boxoffice for "Night at the Museum" fell 73% as the title dropped from No. 2 to No. 8 on the charts. "John Tucker Must Die" dropped 71%, disappearing from the top 10 as it slid from eighth to 14th in the overall standings.

Potentially more damaging was a threatened exhibitors' boycott of Fox's "Rocky Balboa," set for a Feb. 8 release in Germany.

That danger was averted this week when Fox reached a deal that will include pushing back "Eragon's" home video bow.

"We've settled with 20th Century Fox and will start running Fox titles again starting (Thursday)," Cinestar spokesman Thomas Schultz said.

Although German exhibitors and Fox declined to give details of the new agreement, it is understood to require a minimum four-month window between theatrical and DVD releases in Germany.

"Anything under four months can't be taken seriously, we would have to react accordingly to preserve our business model" CinemaxX spokesman Arne Schmidt said.

This is the second time German theater owners have successfully enforced their business requirements on distributors.

Last year, German independent Kinowelt wanted to release soccer documentary "Germany. A Summer Fairytale" just two months after its Oct. 5 theatrical bow.

Exhibitors threatened a boycott and Kinowelt backed down. "A Summer Fairytale" DVDs will hit German shelves Feb. 8.
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