A group of German exhibitors is threatening to boycott UIP's forthcoming releases of The Hulk (3 July ) and Sinbad (24 July) because of the introduction of a new rental system which sees the percentage cut taken by the US major rising to 55% for the release of Van Helsing in May 2004.

The exhibitors' body Interessengemeinschaft 47.7 said that cinema-owners had been taken completely by surprise by UIP's new rentals system which would see all types of cinemas - from city centre multiplexes to cinemas in small towns - being required to pay the same percentage for 12 of UIP's forthcoming releases.

While the opening weeks of Blue Crush (7 August) and Ned Kelly (13 September) will be both be set at 47.5%, another six films including The Inlaws (18 September) and Luther (30 October) are pegged at 50%. Three films - The Hulk, Sinbad and American Pie 3 (August 28) - at 52.5%, and, finally, Van Helsing (May 20, 2004) at 55%.

Commenting on the 55% rental for Van Helsing, the group said that it would be "only a question of time before this percentage is established as the normal rate."

Furthermore, the exhibitors noted that the distributor's cut would be reduced in eight of the 12 releases in the second week, but for four films a reduction (to 47.5%) only came in the fifth week of release.

In the light of the increasingly negative effects of piracy on the cinemas' box office revenues seen in the first half of 2003, UIP's actions appeared "lacking instinct and damaging all market participants", according to the exhibitors.

"An increase in film rentals is not practicable with us. It is a question of our existence and that of our firms - and even of the preservation of the cinema landscape everywhere in Germany," they said.

Meanwhile, according to German press reports, the CinemaxX multiplex chain is not intending to play The Hulk while Kieft & Kieft's Cinestar chain, on the hand, is going ahead with its bookings of the Ang Lee actioner.

Kieft spokesman Jan Oesterlin was quoted as saying "we are not saying anything about the conditions."