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UK Cinema Group Boycotts 'Alice,' But Disney Insiders Say Talks Continue

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Feb 23, 2010 | 4:51am EST

The UK's Odeon and UCI Cinema Group has decided not to screen Tim Burton's 3D Alice in Wonderland over Disney's plans to release the film on DVD after just 12 weeks.

The exhibitor has confirmed that it will not screen the film in its UK, Irish or Italian chains. However, Variety reports that Disney insiders insist negotiations with Odeon continue.

Odeon does plan to show the film in Spain, Germany, Portugal and Austria, where Disney is planning to observe the normal DVD release window, Screen reports.

An Odeon spokesperson said, "Odeon/UCI has invested considerable sums of money, especially in the UK, over the past twelve months to install digital projection systems in its cinemas to enable customers to enjoy 3D.The popularity of 3D titles meant that last year these films played in Odeon/UCI cinemas for an average of 18 weeks from initial release.

"The proposed reduction in the window on a high profile 3D title like Alice in Wonderland undermines the investment made and will inevitably set a new benchmark, leading to a 12 week window becoming rapidly standard in the UK for the majority of film titles."

Rival chain Cineworld, however, agreed to show the film after reaching an agreement with Disney. The UK's Vue chain is also understood to have reached an agreement with Disney, details of which are due to be announced shortly, the BBC reports.

According to Reuters, analysts say Disney's long-term strategy calls for less reliance on the cinema chains in favor of revenue from Blu-ray video and online distribution.

In the US, negotiations continued this week between Disney and AMC Entertainment, which boasts more than 4,500 screens.

Still, analysts also told Reuters that US theater chains are unlikely to boycott en-masse the year's first blockbuster release.

"AMC's a major exhibitor chain, obviously that makes a difference, but my guess is this (dispute) will be settled close to the opening-day release," analyst Hal Vogel of Vogel Capital Management told Reuters.

"Disney understands the implications of what they're doing," Vogel said. "They're looking to the long-term future, and the long-term future is less reliance on theaters and more reliance on new technology."

Disney told the BBC that one of the main reasons for the decision to shorten the theatrical window was to bring the film to customers more quickly, thereby helping to beat piracy.

The film opens around the globe on March 5.

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