Avengers: Age of Ultron is being boycotted by 193 small German towns, excluding it from 686 screens since the Disney film opened in that country on April 23. It has nothing to do with the film's content, so General Von Strucker is in the clear for the time being. The ban is taking place in cities with less the 50,000 residents, with the reason being Disney's inflated rental fee, which has jumped from 47.7 to 53 percent of all ticket sales. Cinema owners claim this came as a complete shock.
In addition to the jacked-up rental fee, Disney has cut the money previously contributed to advertising, and the advances for 3D glasses has been eliminated. Industry lobby group Hauptverband Deutscher Filmtheater's Andreas Kramer stated:
"Approaching the industry with these conditions is fully unusual and, for me, a scandal."
The main protest is coming from Northern Germany, where the I.G. Nord serves as an advocacy group. Spokesman Karl-Heinz Meier stated:
"We are worried - particularly about eastern Germany. When prices go up, then we have a serious problem that could force movie theaters to close. In the North, 100 cinemas protested. But now everyone believes in us. It stretches from Rendsburg to Upper Bavaria, from the Rhineland to Thüringen - across the whole country. Everyone is banding together and not showing the film"
As the boycott stretches across all of German, urban theaters are also showing moral support. Though, the large cinema chains are accustomed to higher rental rates and can't fully support the ban due to contract stipulations. In recent years, the smaller German theaters have faced quite a few challenges that include 'huge investments in modern marketing strategies, rising overhead, the cost of updating theaters, rising personnel costs due to Germany's newly introduced minimum wage, and the shift to digital technology'. These things have made it hard for smaller independent theaters to keep up, with many facing closure.
Film distribution companies are now saving billions of euros with new digital projection technology, which eliminates having to produce physical copies on their end. But in turn, smaller theaters have had to invest billions of dollars in keeping up with the new technology, which all comes out of their pocket. Film distribution companies have done nothing to help contribute to the costs of modernizing theaters. While the German government has helped keep the theaters alive with public funding, Disney's new conditions are counteracting against that. Says Andreas Kramer:
"The cinemas that have received public funding are being pushed up against a wall with rental pricing that are 5.3 percent higher. And that means tax payers' money in the form of sustainable cultural support is in danger."
In the past, rental rates have varied. Cinemas would divide into two groups, those that premiered the big movies and those that showed them weeks after their premiere. Modern technology is now making that process obsolete. At this time, film rental prices are not regulated, and Disney is allowed to adjust its fees to boost profits. Other distributors have not raised their fees, and are waiting to see how this all plays out. If Disney can hold its ground, other studios will likely forge ahead with inflated rental fees as well. Cinema owners are confident Disney will back down, especially with Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the way. Says Karl-Heinz Meier:
"The new Star Wars film is coming out at the end of the year. Disney manages distribution - things could get interesting."
At this time, Disney has declined to comment on the boycott. Said Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Germany in a statement:
"It goes against our company policy to publicly comment on confidential details regarding our business relationships."