Although Disney has made no formal announcement, Amazon.com has changed its listing of the John Carter DVD/Blu-ray from having an unspecified release date, to a release date now listed at June 5, 2012. If true, this would be one of the earliest DVD releases of a major motion picture at 85 days after the theatrical release date of March 9, 2012.
In the past, efforts by studios to release films on a similar schedule has provoked resistance from theater owners who believe that an early DVD release date impacts the latter phases of a theatrical run, which is typically when theaters are getting the lion’s share of the box office receipts. They theorize that knowing a film’s DVD release is imminent affects the willingness to see the film theatrically, not just in the immediate weeks before the release, but much earlier.
In 2011 Disney announced in February that it was their intention to release Alice in Wonderland (which had not yet been released when they made the announcement) in the first week of june — less than three months after its early March release date. At the time, the LA Times reported:
The decision signals a big shift in strategy for Disney, which until now has resisted tampering with the traditional four-month period between a movie’s theatrical release and its availability in the home. Some theater operators, who worry that pushing up the date of DVD releases will dissuade people from watching movies on the big screen, fear that Disney’s action could snowball and become standard industry practice. “I speak for myself and other exhibitors when I say we don’t like it,” said Phil Zacheretti, chief executive of Phoenix Big Cinemas Management, which operates 170 screens in 13 states. “It encourages people to wait for the DVD to come out. Three months is way too early on any film….
In 2009 Paramount announced a similar plan to release two films, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” and Jeremey Pivens: “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” –both 88 days after their theatrical release. This provoked a similar outcry from theater owners:
On average, 20th Century Fox maintains the tightest theatrical window among major studios. Fox Home Entertainment tags its DVD releases for 122 days — about four months — after they open in theaters. NATO stats show Paramount with the second-tightest window, at an average 123 days. Its unprecedented scheduling of quick “street dates” for two titles at once has exhibitors worried that a new wave of accelerated DVD releasing will sweep through Hollywood.
NATO posts window averages on its Web site and issues “early warnings” when studios schedule unusually early DVD releases. The trade association leaves it to individual exhibitors to decide on an appropriate response.
If the film in question is still in theaters, exhibitors might pull it from their circuits. Alternately, theater owners might put the squeeze on any future negotiations on film rentals with the offending studio.
“We don’t know what Paramount is up to, but it’s highly objectionable,” Fithian said.
The National Association of Theater Owners offers DVD Window Tracking reports on their website. Their most recent graphic shows the trend toward earlier release dates – but not as early as Disney is apparently planning to release John Carter.