Leadership

A Major Avengers Battle Taking Place Offscreen

By / May 5, 2015 (Marvel Studios)

After its members complained about efforts by Disney to change its tactics with its newest Avengers film, the National Association of Theatre Owners spoke up—and in the process earned more flexibility from the Marvel Studios owner.

Whether you’re a Black Widow partisan or Tony Stark is more your cup of tea, this Avengers: Age of Ultron tale may be almost as exciting as what’s happening on the screen.

The bad guy in this version of events, however, isn’t the electronic supervillain Ultron but the film’s distributor, Disney. That’s the take of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), which says it’s been flooded with complaints from members about strong-arm tactics that the Marvel Studios parent company has been using with its high-grossing marquee film.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, theaters complained about limitations on matinee hours for the flick, as well as having to alternate between showing Avengers and other features on the same screen. Worst of all, NATO claimed, was an effort to implement a new kind of price plan, in which theaters would have to charge the national average price of a movie ticket or more to receive a percentage of the blockbuster’s box-office take. That plan could have forced a major price increase in small cities.

In a letter to Disney, NATO CEO John Fithian said the association was speaking out this time—something it rarely does during price negotiations—because so many of its members had complained.

“The additions to the proposed agreement and volume of concerns raised by our members move us to voice our concerns,” Fithian wrote, according to the Journal.

While Dave Hollis, Disney’s executive vice president of theatrical exhibition sales and distribution, suggested that NATO members should not get involved in these kinds of distribution concerns, the company nonetheless acquiesced to most of them, emphasizing that it would be flexible on matters such as matinee times and ticket prices in smaller markets.

“Historically we’ve had strong and mutually beneficial relationships with our exhibitor partners, and as issues have arisen from time to time we have worked together to resolve them, and we plan on continuing that same approach going forward,” the company told the Journal in a statement.

Disney’s attempt to implement the requirements in the first place comes from a position of strength: the prior Avengers film was the third-biggest film of all-time in the U.S., Disney has had a number of other major hits of late (such as Frozen and Cinderella), and Marvel Studios films now represent the three-largest opening weekends at the box office in the United States.

Oh, yeah, and the company owns Lucasfilm, which could set up another fight come December, when the new Star Wars film is released.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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