Already faced with dwindling summer ticket sales, the nation's theater owners took a swipe at Walt Disney Co.'s incoming chief executive Thursday for suggesting that the health of the film industry may require the simultaneous release of movies in theaters and on DVDs.
John Fithian, president of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, said this scenario — raised by new Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger during a call with analysts last week — would only further damage theater owners, who have been confronting one of their toughest summers in years.
"Mr. Iger knows better than to tell consumers — or Wall Street analysts — that they can have it all, everywhere, at the same time," Fithian said. "He knows there would be no viable movie theater industry in that new world."
Although the issue of when to release DVDs has been brewing in recent years, Iger is the first CEO of a major media company to publicly raise the prospect of closing the gap, or window, between a movie's release in theaters and its sale on DVD.
Fithian said that although he had not read a transcript of Iger's comments before releasing his statement Thursday, he said he received no fewer than 10 phone calls and e-mails from members "demanding that we respond" to the remarks they'd heard or read about.
In his earnings call with analysts, Iger said: "I don't think it's out of the question that a DVD could be released in fact in the same window as a theatrical release, although I'm sure we'll get a fair amount of push back there from the industry…. I think that all the old rules should be called into question because the rules in terms of consumption have changed so dramatically."