‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’: German Theaters Boycott Disney Over Film Rental Increase

With The Avengers: Age of Ultron set to hit the big screen, small theater owners throughout Germany are threatening to continue to boycott Disney over a plan to increase film rental fees.

With news of the increase, over the past weekend, cinemas in 193 towns in Germany joined together in a major boycott of the latest Disney blockbuster.

Theater owners are now saying that unless Disney backs down on their plans to increase the rental fees, they will continue to boycott Disney releases including the 3D animated feature Tinkerbell: Legend of the Neverbeast, set for release shortly.

While the financial impact of the boycott is unknown, the cinemas currently involved in the Disney boycott represent 686 screens in total. However, not all were planning to book the latest Avengers movie. According to The Hollywood Reporter, best estimates are that less than 200 screens lost the movie as a result of the Disney boycott.

It is now reported that small town cinemas offering 187 screens across the European country are massing together to boycott Disney after all of them promoted The Avengers: Age of Ultron in the run-up to the showings.

It seems the film did open on over 840 German screens in its first weekend of showing and apparently grossed $9.35 million, representing the best-ever start for a Marvel film in Germany. The film is also setting records elsewhere in the world.

The reason for the smaller cinemas getting upset with Disney is a rate hike in the rental fee, which increases the percentage taken by Disney from ticket sales from the previous 47.7 percent up to 53 percent.

The cinema owners are saying this brings the rents paid by small theaters in line with those paid by bigger chains in the main urban centers in Germany, which they feel is financially unfair.

They also state that Disney, as well as other studio distributors, tend to concentrate their advertising and marketing in the bigger cities, ignoring the outlets in the smaller towns, meaning that they have to spend more on advertising themselves to promote the films. To add higher rental fees on top of the fact that they have to do their own marketing is simply unfair.

Karl-Heinz Meier, speaking for IG Nord, which represents Northern German cinema owners said they told Disney they were prepared to go as high as 50 percent but no higher.

“We said for a 50 percent rate, we’d screen every Disney film.”

However, according to Meier, Disney announced the hike in rental fees just 12 days before the release of the Avengers movie, leaving small cinema owners little time to adjust to the new system.

Meier said that unless Disney backs down, the smaller theaters will continue to boycott Disney and this was likely to affect future blockbusters including Pixar’s Inside Out and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

According to the Boston Herald, Meier said, “The new ‘Star Wars‘ film is coming out at the end of the year. Disney manages its distribution — things could get interesting.”

On Monday, April 27, Disney sent a letter to the boycotting smaller theaters advising that there would be no change and that the new higher rate of 53 percent is there to stay. The company has declined to comment on the rates’ hike, saying that the confidential nature of the negotiations prohibits such comment.

A group representing the interests of German cinema owners has said that rental fees should sink rather than increase right across the board as apparently, theaters have had to invest in new digital projection technology. This is an investment, which apparently mainly benefits the studio distributors who then pay less for the delivery of the physical film rolls involved.

AG Kino announced in a statement that this digitization “has resulted in major savings for distributors, [savings] that have not yet been passed on to their partners, the cinemas.”

Meier and the other theater owners say they are convinced that film rental costs should come down and have proposed a new rental standard of 39 percent.

“We are businessmen, we just want to run our business. But these conditions make it impossible.”

The independent theater owners are now also concerned that other Hollywood studios might follow Disney’s lead in hiking rental fees and they feel they have to continue fighting and boycott Disney as an example to the other studios.

Meanwhile The Avengers: Age of Ultron is set to hit U.S. theaters on May 1 with no plans by the U.S. or other countries to boycott Disney.

In other uncomfortable news on The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Inquisitr recently reported on Robert Downey Jr.‘s excellent handling of an awkward interview with Channel 4 News journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

[Photo: Bryan Bedder / Getty Images]