Although simultaneous global release dates are being encouraged by some US distribution executives, their Australian counterparts have cautioned against not carefully weighing up all factors when dating blockbusters, including the competition and timing of the school holidays.
"There is a lot of merit in tent-pole pictures going simultaneously in as many markets as possible, especially if they are a known franchise or if they have triple A actors," said Ian Sands, chair of the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA). "But it does not hold true across the board."
A recent example of the pitfalls of day and date releasing is the Australian release of The Perfect Storm, held back from the top spot in Oz by Gone In 60 Seconds despite being a huge hit in the US where it went up against weaker competition in The Patriot. On the other hand, Columbia TriStar had a surprise hit with Stuart Little in Australia four months after its US launch.
"I'm leaning towards not doing as many [day and date releases] as we have done," said 20th Century Fox managing director Robert Slaviero soon after his recent experience with Me, Myself And Irene, which dropped from first to fifth position one week after its June 22 launch. "If we had had the US result first we could have worked on different (marketing) materials or positioned it differently or not spent so much. But you also can't let titles bank up and the timing was right to go day and date."
Three weeks later Fox's X-Men had a big opening day but didn't perform as strongly as expected in its first week because the US timing meant it was only on release during the last two days of the Australian school holidays. Slaviero would ordinarily have held off until the September school holidays to release the picture, but not this year with the 2000 Olympics looming.
UIP Australia's managing director Mike Selwyn has registered huge results for MI:2 and Gladiator but says day and date releases do not have value on their own. "We do our dating on the nature of the film and how it is to fit with what else is around and if it needs school holidays," said Selwyn.
Nevertheless, day and date can probably be better justified in Australia than in any other territory, where audience tastes are similar to the US and cast tours are rare and therefore not expected.