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Cinemark Movie Chain to Boycott Universal Film Over Cable Plan

Cinemark Holdings Inc., the third-largest U.S. movie chain, said it won’t screen Universal Pictures’ “Tower Heist” if the studio proceeds with a plan to offer the film to cable-TV viewers while it is still in theaters.

Cinemark has asked Universal, controlled by cable system Comcast Corp., to reconsider the video-on-demand test planned three weeks after the film’s Nov. 4 debut in theaters, the Plano, Texas-based cinema operator said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The cable-TV offering is scheduled for Atlanta and Portland, Oregon.

Movies need longer exclusive runs in theaters to build awareness among consumers, said Cinemark, which operates 3,825 movie screens in 293 locations. Studios are testing earlier VOD release dates to replace declining DVD sales. The window between the theatrical opening and home-video release typically is about four months, the company said.

“Over the past year Cinemark has continually voiced its concern to Universal and other studios regarding any early-to-the-home premium video-on-demand,” Cinemark said in the statement. “Movies are designed to be exhibited in today’s state of the art digital theaters.”

Comcast plans to offer the movie, starring Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller, for home viewing for $59.99 starting three weeks after its Nov. 4 debut, the studio said Oct. 5.

Universal, Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros., News Corp.’s Fox and Sony Corp. previously offered films two months after the theatrical release through DirecTV.

Comcast, based in Philadelphia, rose 46 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $22.09 yesterday in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. Shares of the largest U.S. cable TV service have declined less than a percent this year before today.

Cinemark fell 8 cents, or less than a percent, to $18.79 yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Regal Entertainment Group is the largest U.S. cinema operator.

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