Some of Europe's leading distributors and marketers arenow questioning the drift towards day-and-date releasing.

Judging by the remarks made at yesterday's European Box OfficeForum, hosted by Screen International at Waldorf Hilton Hotel in London, there is a growing consensus that filmscan suffer from a super-wide blitzkrieg release.

Christian Grass, executive vice president, Europe, MiddleEast and Asia, 20th Century Fox International for one debunked the widely-heldbelief that copyright protection is the core driving force behind simultaneousglobal roll-outs.

"Day and date releasing doesn't prevent piracy, but it does delayit," he said. "We use day-and-date to create a world event."

He cited such Fox films as 2004's The Day After Tomorrow, which was about a world event, and nextyear's Omen 666(which releases on June 6 - 6/6/06) as times when it such a strategy was appropriate.But it does not make sense across the board, he suggested. "It depends on somany factors. The most important decision in the life of a film is finding theright date."

Dennis Davidson, chairman of DDA PR, agreed that for some films -those that gain extra life from talent availability - day-and-date was amistake.

"The amount of free media exposure you can get by having talent incountry is invaluable - you can't quantify it. On Basic Instinct 2, which opens in the UK and US on March31, we need Sharon Stone. We will world premiere in the UK, then do a Europeantour and then go to the US for the launch week. A three to four week windowsolves the problem as we can move the talent."

Jean Labadie, chairman of France's Bac Films said not all films shouldbe modeled after US blockbusters in terms of their handling. "French andEuropean films need time, they need word of mouth. Exhibitors want performancenow. A film can always be replaced with sub-product from the US."

Labadie was adamant that the increasingly commoditzed approach tothe cinema experience was hurting the business.

"Going to the cinema should be an adventure each time. The problemwith multiplexes is there's no one to help you make a choice. It's like goingto a supermarket. It's not fun."

While acknowledging that multiplexes had been a boon to admissions,he suggested they now had to be rethought and that the Field Of Dreams approach of "if you build it they willcome" was no longer enough.

"You have to make it fun, attractive. Show short films,documentaries, anything to give a complete evening," he recommended, evensuggesting DVD bonus material - usually developed before theatrical release -could be utilised. "We can avoid a new disaster."

Labadie used the example of Wallace And Gromit to illustrate the possibilities ofalternative programming. Long before the feature-length version was made forDreamWorks release this year, three of the original short films featuring thesame Aardman claymation duo were released theatrically as a single programme intwo cinemas in Paris where they played for a year and made more than 150,000admissions.

"Don't treat audiences as dumb-asses," Labadie exclaimed. "If youhave choice people will come. People come to a movie to be surprised."

Further details of presentations and panels will appear in theweekly print editions of Screen International.