Evidently, these distribution deals are a little Galactic Empire-esque.
If two-month-early ticket sales causing delays at sites like Fandango weren't indication enough, there's plenty of audience appetite for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi this Autumn. Disney evidently knows this, too, and according to The Wall Street Journal, the company is happily using its leverage in unprecedented distribution deals with theaters over the next Star Wars installment.
Disney has crafted agreements through which it will receive roughly 65 percent of ticket sales, "a new benchmark for a Hollywood studio" according to a report. (Average splits range from 40 percent abroad to 55 percent on average in the US to 60 percent for only the largest hits.) And anonymous theater owners told the paper that Disney's list of requirements for carrying The Last Jedi are the "most onerous they’ve ever seen."
Among the asks theaters had to oblige, Disney insisted The Last Jedi must be shown on a participating theater's largest auditorium for at least four weeks, theaters must sign individually watermarked contracts so official language doesn't leak, and any marketing must be held until Disney gives theaters the go-ahead.
With the company touting not only Star Wars but entities like the Marvel Universe and its own highly sought animated films, “[Disney] is in the most powerful position any studio has ever been in, maybe since MGM in the 1930s.
The paper notes there are penalties for not following Disney's specifications, too. If a theater violates any condition of the distribution agreement, Disney can charge it an additional five percent. That would raise Disney's cut to 70 percent on a film analysts expect to gross hundreds of millions.
SlashFilm notes prior Star Wars films also had big asks from Disney—64 percent of ticket-sale revenue and two weeks in a theater's biggest auditorium, for instance. (And Ars can vouch that press screenings for prior Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakenswere also difficult to come by.) To an optimist, such requirements could be seen as a form of quality control (Star Wars is meant for big screens); to a pessimist, it's merely content rights being used for more beneficial business.
Either way, SlashFilm notes that the heightened regulations for The Last Jedi have kept some smaller film houses from deciding to carry this chapter when it officially releases on December 15. If you're a small-town theater with only a few screens, for instance, being cemented into a single film for a four-week period could mean lots of empty seats.
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