In a rare pay-per-view exhibition of an animated film, 20th
Century Fox will distribute its successful Anastasia via PPV this summer, but
Viewer's Choice will not carry it.
Anastasia, which generated more than $58 million at the
box office, debuts on PPV July 3, and it will be carried by DirecTv Inc., TVN
Entertainment Corp. and several cable operators. Fox would not confirm or deny any deals,
but it did say that the movie was made available to all parties.
"We've had discussions about distributing Anastasia
to all of our clients," said Jamie McCabe, vice president of worldwide PPV for the
studio. "A majority of our clients are licensing the movie; a few aren't."
As for Viewer's Choice's decision not to carry
the movie, Joe Boyle, its vice president of corporate communications, said, "Fox
chose not to make it available to us under our standard licensing deal; that was the
reason why we won't carry it. The film had a number of strikes against it, such as a
very short [PPV] window, the fact that it's a sell-through title and the fact that it
has a 60-day home-video window."
Indeed, distributors can only exhibit Anastasia on
PPV for three weeks -- well short of the typical 30- to 45-day window. Further, the pay TV
promotional window -- which is usually 60 to 90 days -- is only two weeks after the last
Also, sources said, the studio -- which was concerned about
the movie's image on PPV -- has required that the movie's promotional materials
not run side-by-side with those for any violent or adult-oriented PPV programming. And Fox
has cut the normal 30- to 45-day PPV-promotional window in half.
Fox's concerns about the integrity of PPV-promotional
efforts were similar to those raised by Steven Spielberg several years ago. Spielberg
pulled PPV distribution of his Academy Award-winning Schindler's List for fear
that promotions for the Holocaust epic would be mixed in with promotions for adult shows
and violent, R-rated shows.
"When you review all of these factors, it didn't
make sense for us to carry it," Boyle said.
Nevertheless, several other distributors have jumped at the
opportunity to distribute the animated film. Viewer's Choice competitors DirecTv and
TVN have both confirmed that they will carry the film, although neither company would
Also, at least one cable operator will distribute the film
on a stand-alone basis. "We've been contacted by 20th Century Fox, and
we'll carry it as a movie-of-the-week title," said Ted Hodgins, manager of PPV
for Media General Cable of Fairfax County, Va.
Despite the obstacles, a successful PPV run for Anastasia
could open the doors for other animated titles to reach PPV. In the past, classic animated
films from The Walt Disney Co. have skipped PPV because the company feels that the
male-skewed, event-oriented PPV business is not a primary market for its family-oriented
But with several studios releasing animated product, some
PPV insiders feel that the time may be right to try to attract a new audience to PPV.
"Anastasia could be the building block for the distribution of more
nontraditional PPV programming in the future," McCabe said.