Bat­tling big busi­ness

Val­ley Drive-In joins Brack­ley Drive-In fight against Dis­ney Stu­dios film dis­tri­bu­tion meth­ods

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS - BY JOR­DAN PARKER SALTWIRE NET­WORK

The Val­ley Drive-In joined the fight against Dis­ney Stu­dios started by P.E.I.’s Brack­ley Drive-In this week.

Kirk Long­mire, a mem­ber of the Cold­brook Lions, which own the An­napo­lis Val­ley sta­ple, says the rules Dis­ney has about how many weeks its films must be played con­strain the one-plex and drivein the­atre in­dus­try.

“We have to play a Dis­ney movie for three weeks in a row, or we can’t show it at all,” said Long­mire.

“The rules here aren’t new. We’d be stuck with the same movie and dwin­dling prof­its three weeks run­ning, but now that Dis­ney owns Mar­vel and Star Wars, things are at crit­i­cal mass.”

Over the July 6-8 week­end, Long­mire says the Val­ley Drive-In was play­ing Solo: A Star Wars Story for the first time, al­though it’s been in theatres since May 10.

The other film on the dou­blebill? A third help­ing of Avengers: In­fin­ity War, which blasted the box-of­fice sum­mer sea­son into gear back in April.

“We don’t have to play them for three weeks if we wait a month or six weeks to show them, but by then, they’re so old that we won’t make as much money,” said Long­mire.

“We’re ex­pect­ing less than half of what we’d make in an av­er­age week­end for July 6, 7, and 8.”

‘Trou­bling trend’

The up­rise against Dis­ney comes af­ter Brack­ley Drive-In owner Bob Boyle took to Face­book this week to tell cus­tomers why nei­ther In­cred­i­bles 2 or Ant-Man & the Wasp, which was re­leased June 6, would be on screens July 6-8.

“We tried to our very best to get what we thought was a great pro­gram. At this time, Dis­ney will not play a new film on a sin­gle-screen drive-in for less than three weeks for most films. We do not think this is fair to us or our cus­tomers,” wrote Boyle on the drive-in’s Face­book page.

“You, as the cus­tomer, have the right to de­mand when and where you can watch a film. Only you can change this trou­bling trend. The stu­dio will not lis­ten to us, but they should lis­ten to you.”

Boyle’s words set off a Twit­ter and Face­book firestorm, with Dis­ney and the prop­er­ties it owns re­ceiv­ing nu­mer­ous mes­sages from fans ask­ing for pol­icy changes.

Saltwire reached out to Dis­ney’s cor­po­rate of­fices July 4 and, as of noon on July 5, had not yet re­ceived a re­sponse.

“Dis­ney is do­ing this in small towns and on sin­gle-screens and drive-ins all over the place, and it threat­ens the vi­a­bil­ity of the in­dus­try,” says Boyle.

He says the Vogue The­atre in Sackville, N.B., Brack­ley, the Val­ley Drive-In and the Nep­tune DriveIn in She­diac, N.B. are all hav­ing is­sues.

Saltwire reached out to the owner of Nep­tune and Vogue but did not re­ceive a call back.

“Dis­ney, as an um­brella cor­po­ra­tion, dic­tates this ‘three-week’ rule, but in a small town with a small pop­u­la­tion, it doesn’t work,” said Boyle.

“Small towns are de­nied ac­cess. It’s like we aren’t wor­thy of their time or con­tent un­less we meet these terms. Some of us in small towns, un­der cur­rent stan­dards, can’t get Dis­ney movies un­til six to eight weeks af­ter re­lease.”

Break­ing point

The break­ing point for Boyle came with a new rule pro­hibit­ing the drive-in from play­ing a Dis­ney movie in con­junc­tion with any film the drive-in hadn’t yet played, which spoiled plans for an all-Dis­ney dou­ble-bill of the Ant-Man and In­cred­i­bles se­quels.

“We could have had Ant-Man open­ing week­end and fi­nally got­ten the In­cred­i­bles a month af­ter re­lease, but be­cause we had passed on In­cred­i­bles ear­lier to avoid the three-week rule, the two movies were dis­al­lowed to­gether,” he said.

“No other stu­dio does this to us. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. If Dis­ney cared about ex­hibitors and cus­tomers, they’d come to play.”

And it could be­come worse. As it stands, Dis­ney is also cur­rently in a bid­ding war with gi­ant Com­cast to ob­tain the rights to FOX, in­clud­ing its film com­ment.

Some FOX prop­er­ties in­clude X-Men, Dead­pool, Planet of the Apes, Alien, Preda­tor and more. If Dis­ney is suc­cess­ful, it would then own all FOX film prop­er­ties, as well as Mar­vel and the Star Wars rights.

Long­mire is wor­ried the ac­qui­si­tion could change the land­scape for­ever, and not only for the Val­ley Drive-In.

“You stand back and look at the mar­ket­place, and they have so many block­busters now. I don’t know what it will look like if they gain all the FOX ti­tles too,” he said.

“This week­end is the third time we’ve had to show the Avengers, and we’re con­stantly back­fill­ing to try to fill the sched­ule. This is hap­pen­ing al­ready this sum­mer, and it’s only July. It’s be­gin­ning to get wor­ri­some.”

Long­mire ad­mires the Brack­ley owner’s tenac­ity, though he isn’t sure he would have done it him­self.

“We do this on a break-even ba­sis, and not for profit. I didn’t want to raise the red flag, but see­ing what the fu­ture holds, we need ra­tio­nal­iza­tion brought to this process,” he said.

“We have ab­so­lutely no is­sue sup­port­ing and pro­mot­ing this cause.”

He says the amount of peo­ple sup­port­ing the cause has been over­whelm­ing, even if they don’t un­der­stand the over­all arc of what’s hap­pen­ing.

“We’ve been deal­ing with this the bet­ter part of four years, and peo­ple are sur­prised at how long we’ve been find­ing work­arounds. They’re sup­port­ive but in awe of Dis­ney’s poli­cies that make no sense,” he said.

“For some rea­son, they just don’t want to uti­lize our screens. I’m not sure why we can’t just find some mid­dle-of-the-road com­pro­mise.”

AN­DREA BURBIDGE

The Val­ley Drive-In The­atre, in the An­napo­lis Val­ley, has joined the fight with the Brack­ley Drive-In protest­ing strin­gent re­quire­ments around when it can show Dis­ney films.

AN­DREA BURBIDGE

“We’ve been deal­ing with this the bet­ter part of four years, and peo­ple are sur­prised at how long we’ve been find­ing work­arounds,” says Cold­brook Lion Kirk Long­mire.

AN­DREA BURBIDGE

A car pulls up to the Val­ley Drive-In in Cam­bridge.

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