A new piece of academic researchaims to bring some facts to the sensitive issue of DVD release windows.

Over recent months, there have been strong protests by exhibitors in Italy, Germany and the UK against erosion of the gap between theatrical and home entertainment launches - and it remains an issue in many parts of the world.

Research from Bauhaus-University of Weimar (Germany), Cass Business School (London), and the Universities of Hamburg (Germany) and Missouri-Columbia (US) is now trying to bring some science to what has been an emotive issue.

The study, whichdrew on drew on 1,770 consumer interviews in the US, Japan and Germany drew up between 800 and 900 scenarios where the windows between theatrical and home entertainment are shifted.

The team,led by Professor Thorsten Hennig-Thurau, Professor of Marketing at Bauhaus-University and Cass Business School,foundthe Hollywood studios could make significant increases in revenue by simultaneously releasing films in cinemas, on DVD rentals and video-on-demand - though with a three-month delay before DVD sales - 16% in the US, 14% in Germany and 12% in Japan.

But confirming what exhibitors have been fearing, it also suggests theatre owners could lose 40% of their annual revenues.

Professor Hennig-Thurau accepts that such a scenario does not take into account the effect of the inevitable dispute between distributor and exhibitor that such a move would generate. 'We did not include the effect of boycotts which would reduce revenues.'

Windows arealready a hot issue with exhibitors angry at the steady erosion of the release window in recent years and manydrawinga line-in-the-sandat afour-month window to DVD release.

Most recently in the UK, major cinema chains pulled Twentieth Century Fox's Night At The Museum in protest at a sub four-month window.

But other scenarios offer the prospect of a 'win-win' outcome.

Interestingly, the research suggests that the optimum release times to increase revenues on all sidesvaries from country to country.

In the US, the win-win scenario is a three-month gap to DVD retail and six months to DVD rental and VOD, while inGermany the VOD window is stretched to 12 months.

Professor Hennig-Thurau said the study showed the complexity of the issues involved.

'What concerns us is that the issue has so far been gut driven where there has been no king of model. We hope some to bring some logic to the discussions.'