Partial relaxation of Australian release windows

12 March, 2014 by Don Groves

The traditional 120-day holdback between theatrical and home entertainment release looks like being shortened for a limited number of films.

Distributors have long campaigned for more flexible release windows to try to combat piracy and so they can more quickly recoup ever-increasing  launch costs from Video-on-Demand revenues, DVD and Blu-ray sales and online services.


The major exhibitors resisted those overtures, fearing that shortening the gap would erode box-office returns.

But a limited number of films are likely to be released this year on VoD, DVD and Blu-ray one month earlier than the 120-day holdback.

Each film is negotiated separately and IF does not suggest there is any collusion between distributors and exhibitors.

The 90-day release window is being viewed as a trial and the results would be evaluated to try to gauge the impact on ticket sales and home entertainment revenues.

“It is a sensible step in the right direction, part of the realisation that distribution needs to change as more broadband and VoD services come on line,” one film industry executive told IF. “It’s a short-term experiment which will be reviewed.”

Another source said the 120-day holdback works fine for some films but others would benefit from a shorter gap, particularly for family titles that can hit the home entertainment market for Christmas and other peak holidays.

One executive asserts it makes no sense for films that flop in cinemas and are withdrawn after one or two weeks to wait four months before they go out on VoD/DVD.  

The shorter window would also benefit VoD platforms, including the pending launches of Hoyts Stream and Dendy Direct.

Several Australian films, including prison drama Convict, supernatural thriller Foreshadow and teen drama Circle of Lies went to DVD/VoD within weeks of their cinema premieres but they screened at independent cinemas.

By co-incidence, Warner Bros' crowd-funded Veronica Mars is being released this week in cinemas worldwide and on VoD/digital the same day, including Australia. The distributor is 4-walling the cinemas, which means the usual holdback does not apply.