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What's Driving The Box Office Batty

Hollywood is pushing movies to DVD and video faster -- and theaters feel squeezed

On July 26 the DVD of xXx: State of the Union will arrive on store shelves just 88 days after the movie starring Ice Cube first appeared in theaters. That turnaround is about half the average time for Hollywood fare, but there's good reason for that: The flick was a stinker, costing more than $100 million to make and market but pulling in just $26 million during a bleak run in cinemas. Sony Pictures, which released xXx, is hoping to breathe some new life into the action flick by getting it to DVD ASAP, flouting the industry's traditional timetable and hoping to cash in on what has been a red-hot market for disks.

xXx: State of the Union has more company than Spago has pizzas as Hollywood posts the worst box-office performance in two decades. Moguls blame everything from bad scripts to folks surfing the Internet more. But one key question facing the industry has less to do with what and more to do with when: How quickly should Hollywood studios rush their films to DVD? The answer goes to the core of the complex Hollywood ecosystem and could shake up the long-standing relationships among studios, theaters, and DVD retailers. "With the disappointing box-office results of Cinderella Man and Batman Begins, we may be seeing seismic changes in the film business," says former Artisan Entertainment CEO Amir Malin, who runs the Qualia Capital entertainment fund. "Consumers are being a lot more selective about which movies they see [in theaters]."