No UK Odeon screenings for Alice in Wonderland

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The Independent Culture

Tim Burton's new 3D blockbuster Alice In Wonderland will not be screened in Odeon cinemas in the UK, Ireland and Italy, the chain said today, with other films taking priority.

The stance is a response to a dispute over plans for the interval between Disney's fantasy adventure hitting cinema screens and its DVD release to be set at around three months, instead of the longer usual period of 17 weeks.

Odeon, which has more than 100 cinemas in the UK alone, fears Disney's proposals would "inevitably set a new benchmark, leading to a 12-week window becoming rapidly standard in the UK for the majority of film titles".

Odeon and UCI cinema group said in a statement: "Odeon/UCI has invested considerable sums of money, especially in the UK, over the past 12 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 statement continued: "We have a very full line-up of films to offer audiences over the next few weeks, including two new 3D titles. These will now take priority in our cinemas."

The cinema group said it would be showing the film in its Spanish, German, Portuguese and Austrian cinemas - "where Disney has indicated that it plans to observe the normal DVD release window".

The eagerly-anticipated Walt Disney Pictures movie, starring Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter will have a glitzy royal world premiere in London on Thursday, attended by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Disney sources said today that "active conversations" with cinema chains were ongoing.

The movie will be released on March 5 in both 2D and 3D and the sources said business could be done very quickly and distribution speedily arranged.

They described the 12-week window as a "healthy run" and insisted Disney remained committed to the "theatrical experience".

It is also thought that a shorter gap between the film's launch at the cinema and on DVD would curb opportunities for piracy.

Bob Chapek, president of distribution for the Walt Disney Studios has said: "We feel that it's important for us to maintain a healthy business on the exhibition side and a healthy business on the home video side.

"We think this is in the best interest of theatre owners, because a healthy movie business is good for them and allows us to invest in high quality, innovative content.

"We remain committed to theatrical windows, with the need for exceptions to accommodate a shortened timeframe on a case-by-case basis, such as with Disney's Alice in Wonderland."

Last Thursday, Cineworld announced it had reached an agreement with Disney and would be screening Alice in Wonderland nationwide on more than 150 screens.

Cineworld chief executive Steve Wiener said previously: "We are extremely pleased to have reached a satisfactory compromise on this matter.

"As leaders in 3D we did not want the public to miss out on such a visual spectacle. As the success of Avatar has shown there is currently a huge appetite for the 3D experience."

A spokeswoman for the Vue declined to comment earlier today when asked whether or not the cinema chain planned to show the film.