For those of us who follow the politics of theatrical distribution in the United States, the recent controversy about Disney’s required terms for showing “The Avengers” struck a chord. The dynamics between exhibitors and distributors have always been fraught, and this is only the most recent example. John Fithian, the head of the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), has publicly pushed back at Disney’s latest demands, but as Tori Baker of the Salt Lake Film Society points out, this is an issue that affects all exhibitors, not just the big chains. Her open letter to the art house community on this subject is reprinted (with her permission) below.
I have just returned from CinemaCon a few weeks ago and I am astounded by the volume and “billions” talked about at every corner of that event, from studios, from executives, and from those operating the larger chain for-profit cinemas. At one point someone used a great classic film as an example of something “lame” and proudly touted an action super-hero movie as “awesome.”
While the mission driven art house cinemas are not exactly playing on the same playing field, the issue of price fixing, as pointed out by John Fithian in his response to Disney, is a valid concern for us as well. Unfortunately for all exhibitors, the reality is that if ANY studio changes their terms or makes other demands, the entire food chain of studios, mini-majors and indies end up following their lead. It reaches the independent film world very quickly.