Twister touched down on tape last week, but didn’t it just open in theaters last May — and isn’t it still playing in 400 theaters? In vid-speak that’s a ”five-month window,” and it has nothing to do with Microsoft. The window between theatrical and video releases can portend a tape’s economic fate, and studios employ Schwarzkopfian strategms when choosing the moment to strike.
Last April, PolyGram announced Dead Man Walking’s June video release, capitalizing on Susan Sarandon’s Oscar win to pump up sales to rental stores. FoxVideo launches July’s Independence Day on Nov. 22, when it may still be playing in some theaters. Last summer’s The Cable Guy, The Nutty Professor, and Eraser are all due on tape in the coming weeks.
”The closer video is to theatrical the better, because it’s still fresh in consumers’ minds,” says Robert DeLellis, president of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Many theater owners, however, disdain video, and brief windows only nourish the antipathy. ”It’s always been a sore spot,” says John Krier of the industry research group Exhibitor Relations. ”But there are so many megaplexes now that theatrical tends to burn up faster.”
There are exceptions to the quick-turnaround rule. Disney released Toy Story in theaters last Thanksgiving, but the tape doesn’t hit stores until later this month. Timing the window, says Tania Moloney, a VP at Walt Disney’s Buena Vista Home Video, ”has to do with determining a release schedule that works, what the competition is doing, and what research tells you.” In Toy Story’s case, holiday gift giving is also a factor.
Movies once crawled on to video at a snail’s pace (Jurassic Park took more than a year), and though some still do, the short windows of Twister, Independence Day, and others are rapidly becoming a force of nature.