Thursday, February 25, 2010

Odeon reverses itself and agrees to show "Alice"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A top European theater chain said on Thursday it will show Walt Disney Co's "Alice In Wonderland," after threatening to boycott it in some countries to protest Disney's plans to release the DVD early.

Odeon's reversal on Thursday in signing a deal with Disney came the same day the chain hosted a London premiere for the movie at its Leicester Square theater.

Odeon's concession follows similar deals by the UK's Cineworld Cinemas and Vue Entertainment chains, which were also initially reluctant to show "Alice," but have relented and reached deals with Disney in recent days.

Odeon said in a statement it reached an "enduring agreement" with Disney "encompassing all the different aspects of both companies' commercial relationship."

The statement did not offer details on the agreement. A Disney spokesman also declined to give specifics.

"Alice In Wonderland," which stars Johnny Depp, opens on March 5 and is the most highly anticipated 3-D movie since the record-shattering "Avatar," which has made nearly $2.5 billion at worldwide box offices.

But Disney has upset theater owners with its plan to shorten by about a month the standard 17-week window between the film's theater debut and its DVD release, in part to spark disc sales.

The chains grumbled that audiences would skip going to theaters, and wait to see the movie on DVD.

Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group, owned by London-based private equity firm Terra Firma, said earlier this week that it would not show "Alice" at its UK, Irish and Italian theaters.

Odeon's 110 theaters in the UK make it the largest chain in that country.

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