Theproblem of closing release windows is 'the only issue that can end cinemaas we know it,' John Fithian of the National Association of Theatre Owners(Nato) in the US told Cinema Expo Internationaldelegates in Amsterdam yesterday on the thornyissue.

'Thepreservation of theatrical release windows is the most important issue weface,' he said, calling on distributors and producers to see the futurepitfalls and exhibitors to get tough. When Steven Soderberg'sBubble opened in the US in January on multiple platforms itplayed at only 32 of the country's 37,700 screens. This, according to Fithian, was because Natohas a 'policy not to play simultaneous releases.'

Fithianargued that it was shortsighted to reduce the windowsbecause of the argument that theatrical business no longer generates themajority of revenues and does not see as swift a return of revenue toproducers anymore.

'Cinemabusiness drives all business. It creates the buzz and the marketing for allthat happens after,' he argued. 'Our statistics show that themajority of DVD sales come from the purchaser having enjoyed the cinema experience orhaving been told of how great the cinema experience of that film was.'

'Ibelieve if you close theatrical windows not only will cinemas close but the studios'pie will be shrunk and overall revenues will go down,' he concluded.'It is fundamental to our future.'