The Battle Over Movie Distribution Dates

Nowhere is the importance of selecting the right movie distribution dates more apparent than in the recent announcements by Disney's Marvel Entertainment and DC Entertainment at Warner Bros. Usually, in the past, major film studios announced their theatrical lineups a couple of years in advance. Marvel made a splash by proclaiming its release schedule through the next four years. Not only does it have the opening dates locked for the soon to be upon us The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, it also has dates secured for future motion pictures through 2018 (and even penciling one in for 2020). DC, playing apparent catch-up, also rolled out release dates for as many as nine new flicks following next year's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

With finite days available for movie premieres and finite theater screens, it becomes a scramble to choose the right one that will help increase the odds for a strong box-office debut. Two or more major films rarely if ever open during the same weekend since they would diminish each other's ticket sales. Yet, hogging up all the dates in advance is also a gamble, because one or two duds can ruin not only a studio's current bottomline, but also its reputation going forward, instilling confidence in the competition to put up another film head-to-head. The success of Marvel is making others take notice and stay clear -- DC blinked and moved its Batman v. Superman to a safer date a few months earlier rather than risk the blockbuster might of Marvel's Captain America 3.

Sony and Fox are also laying claim to release dates for their Spider-man, X-Men, and Fantastic Four movies.  Don't forget that superhero adventures aren't the only genres in town.  Disney also announced that it will be producing a new Star Wars movie every single year.

Fans will undoubtedly rejoice at so much content coming down the pike, but a bloated release schedule can turn out to be too much of a good thing, leading to a gluttony of choices that in the end cannibalize each other or lead to consumer fatigue.  It's only a matter of time when physical movie theaters might become obsolete and studios will have to seriously consider other more lucrative distribution models, such as streaming video direct to homes and mobile devices.  Then the distribution wars will really begin.