Neil Calloway understands why Disney are demanding such a high percentage of the box office for the new Star Wars film…
Early tracking (though how they work out how much a film is going to make more than a month before it’s out is beyond me) suggests that Star Wars: The Last Jedi will have an opening weekend surpassed only by The Force Awakens, and according to reports, Disney are going to make sure they get as much as that as possible. If you paid as much as Disney did for the franchise, you’d be looking to squeeze every penny you can out of it. US box office is no longer king, so studios have to make it work for them.
By apparently demanding 65% of the box office, Disney could be accused of holding cinemas over a barrel, and by asking them to show it on their largest screens for at least four weeks, they’re demanding a lot for what might be seen as very little return for the cinemas.
The main reason Disney are doing this is a simple one: because they can. Other studios avoided the release of The Force Awakens (and the prequels before them) like the plague. If cinema owners – in reality huge chains that dominate the market, not unlike Disney itself – want people to go to the movies this December, they’ll have to give in to Disney and show The Last Jedi on their terms.
When you’ve paid a small fortune for cinema tickets and an obscene amount of money for food and drink at the cinema (here’s a tip: just sneak in a drink and a snack you bought elsewhere, it tastes nicer and is cheaper), and you get in and some feral youths sitting behind you don’t understand cinema etiquette, it might be hard to feel sorry for the people you’re paying to have the privilege of getting your feet stuck to the soft drink and popcorn encrusted floor, but they are the victims here.
If a cinema doesn’t show the film or four weeks, Disney are demanding 70% of the box office from them, in a move reminiscent of Darth Vader of Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back when he orders Leia and Chewie be handed over to him; “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.” Disney didn’t turn Florida swampland into the world’s most famous theme park by being nice.
It’s easy to see why they’re doing it too – in the same way that a huge amount of retail spending is done in the run up to Christmas, so much of cinema takings are down to huge franchises, and that means, when it comes to Marvel, Star Wars and their own intellectual property, Disney. The cinema owner’s choice is either bow to Darth Vader’s – sorry, I mean Disney’s – demands or be stuck with an empty auditorium showing obscure foreign language films nobody wants to see.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.