Lenght of a Movie Stay at Theatres...

What determines how long a movie will stay at a particular theatre? Is it until ticket sales drop below some threshold? Or, is it fixed by an agreement with the movie industry, such as like a rental agreement? Or, is it fixed by the rate at which movies flow off the Hollywood production line (and down to the silver screen)? Or, have I missed it entirely? - Jinx

AFAIK, a movie theater will keep showing a movie as long as it’s profitable to do so.

I was under the impression that first-run movie theatres contract with distributors months in advance and that their schedule is pretty much set in stone.

Second-run theatres seem to have more flexibility in how long they can keep movies.

Realy not sure where I got this info, though, so take it for what it’s worth…

Just chuckling at the idea of a theatre manager having to pay an extra fee for renting Ishtar because the projectionist forgot to rewind it.

Some movies, at least, must be at a theater for X weeks. I work at the Coronet in SF for Episode I, and not only did it have to be there at least eight weeks, no passes of any kind could be issued for it in that time.

BTW, crowds were dead after five weeks.

With dozens of theater chains and hundreds of independent movie houses, there’s no one general answer, but here’s the usual scenario.

Movies aren’t guaranteed to theaters but are essentially bid for, with the film going to those houses that put in the most favorable offer. This will probably include some combination of guaranteed weeks and sliding percentages of the gross. And possibly an offer to also show weaker movies, although this may be on the shady side legally.

Movie distributors want the greatest public penetration as soon as possible; theater owners want as much exclusivity as possible. Each movie will come to some different balance of the two.

After the guarantee, the theater owners have great leeway as to how long to keep showing a film, and obviously the larger multiplexes have much more flexibility. They’ll move the film around internally to go into smaller and smaller theaters. I just saw I :heart: Huckabees in a first-run multiplex in a theater that had seven rows. Seven. Probably the last week there, and something new will take its place.

So the answer to the OP is all of the above and more.

I actually work in distribution for a major studio.

The answere is, it all depends.

For one thing each distributor, Universal, Paramount, Fox, Warner Brothers, etc. is different and all have slightly different practices.

But basically…
Theatres are booked in markets at a predertimined run of set number of weeks. (the Week starts on Friday and ends on Thursday) Some markets are 6 week markets. Some are maybe only two. You can have any variation for the number of weeks. Usually there is no problem in the theatre fullfilling that part of the contract. Remember that the screens at a theatre have different sized houses. So a less popular film can go into a smaller house.

Now say a movie opens and it totally bombs. Just absoultly heidous.

Will that movie stay?

Well it all depends.

The studio will try to make it ‘hold clean’. That means it stays in the theatre on a full schedual. The theatre may be willing to play it if it can ‘split the screen’ with another film. If the bomb movie was aimed at kids and they have some older R rated film that does well at night, then the theatre wants to play the family film during the matinee and the R rated film at night. The studio may or may not agree.

If the movie is not the lowest gross they have, imagine a 10 screen theatre and the bomb actually grossed better than two other films that have been out longer, than the studio can argue that point and that the theatre should dump those other movies.

Theatres usually belong to circuits. So they can negotiate that they will hold at theatre A, B and C but be ‘final’ at theatres X, Y and Z.

Now maybe the studio has another movie opening the next week. (it happens) So they’ll say to the theatre go ahead and dump it and take this next one. Some studios have a ‘throw it a wall and see if it sticks’ approach, while others try to hold their product in theatres as long as possible. Sometimes the bomb is made by a big time producer and the studio wants them to feel good about the movie so they hold as many as possible so they can tell the producer that the film is in all these theatres in all these markets.

Of course if the film is doing well it will stay. The studio (never say never) never yanks a film from a theatre.

Basically if you had a movie theatre and two new movies are opening Friday you try and dump your two lowest grossers.

And sometimes, yes sometimes, the studio will pay the theatre to play a movie. The studio rents the theatre, or ‘four walls’ it to have a particular film in a particular theatre.
This is the sort of thing that goes on in my office every Monday.

BTW a basic rule of thumb is that the studio collects about 55% of what the film grosses. So if you hear a movie made 100 million at the box office, the studio probably made about 55 million in ‘rentals’.

Wow, thanks for the inside info Zebra.

It also depends on the season. I mean LOTR (all 3) were in the theaters for a long time, but there aren’t a lot of movies in Jan or Feb to take its place. But during the summer it is a lot more cuthought(sp?). Even a resonably successful film may be moved to make way for a blockbuster aiming to get huge theatre counts.