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Business Comment

David Prosser: Coming soon, after all...

Outlook So Cineworld has backed down in its showdown with Disney over Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Along with the Odeon and Vue cinema chains, it had threatened not to show the film because Disney wants to bring it out on DVD just 12 weeks after it opens on the big screen, rather than respecting the 17-week window that is currently the industry norm.

It is difficult not to side with Disney on this one. Very few films remain on widespread general release for a full 17 weeks, and more than 95 per cent of the typical movie's box office takings are earned in its first eight weeks. It is possible filmgoers might feel more inclined to wait for a DVD release, rather than going to the cinema, if they know they'll have to be patient for a shorter period. But that seems likely only to be a marginal threat in a world where consumers increasingly want instant gratification.

Little loss then for Cineworld and co. But potentially some important gain for Disney and other film producers, which have seen DVD sales fall by a fifth during the recession. One reason for that is the growing sophistication of illegal pirating operations, for whom the 17-week rule is a very handy window of opportunity. It needs to be closed.