Is Disney Entering the Final Phase of Eliminating Film?

I was forwarded the following email sent to theater management around the country by Chuck Viane, Disney’s President of Global Distribution.  After checking with a number of theater operators who confirmed receiving the email, it appears to be valid and not a hoax.

Dear Exhibitor:

At the end of this month I conclude 40 years in exhibition and distribution. I do not want to make this transition without sharing my deep concern with you. Some of you are among the dwindling number still playing only 35mm prints, apparently without plans to migrate to digital cinema. Others of you have converted only a few screens. (For those of you who are in the majority who have committed to conversion, congratulations and you can stop reading!)

The window of opportunity is closing for you to take advantage of our VPF contributions to convert to digital cinema. At the same time, 35mm print costs are rising as suppliers grapple with falling volumes and soaring input costs such as silver and oil. (Film stock costs are up about 20% in just the past year.) I can’t predict when, but we may reach a point when it is no longer economic for us to supply film prints on the same terms we have in the past, or at all.

Likewise, it may become uneconomic for our suppliers to remain in the 35mm print business.

Under these circumstances, if you intend to remain a long term player in the theatrical exhibition business, why take the risk of the eroding economics and questionable prospects for 35mm? The question is particularly timely and urgent when you can still take advantage of limited-time distributor-subsidized programs to convert to digital cinema.

I urge you, as a friend in exhibition, not to miss the best opportunity you will ever have to upgrade. For the sake of your business and the moviegoers that we serve, I urge you make the move to digital, and do it now.

Very truly yours,

Chuck Viane

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