German exhibs win Fox face-off

Pics return after studio settles DVD-window dispute

"Night at the Museum" and "John Tucker Must Die" will return to German theaters now that 20th Century Fox has settled a DVD-release squabble that saw local chains yank the studio's films from their schedules.

At issue was the local DVD release of "Eragon." Fox had planned to issue the disc March 19 in Germany, just three months after its theatrical bow here. 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 result was dramatic. Boxoffice revenue for "Museum" tumbled 73% as the title dropped from No. 2 to No. 8 on the charts. "John Tucker" dropped 71%, sliding from eighth to 14th in the standings. Potentially more damaging was a threatened 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. "Summer Fairytale" DVDs will hit German shelves Feb. 8.
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