American theater owners might want to learn from the European markets, because Italy (as I reported in November) and now Germany have won terrific battles in the release-window war. This past weekend German exhibitors put a ban on the Fox blockbusters Night at the Museum and Eragon in order to protest the studio's plan to put the Eragon DVD in stores three months after its theatrical release date. Fox has given in, stating that it will put a minimum of six months between its movies' cinema and video dates.

Both of the movies put on hiatus had been playing in Germany for awhile, and probably earned a majority of their grosses, but Fox still suffered as Night at the Museum fell from the #2 spot to #8 with a whopping 75% decrease in ticket sales. Also, surprisingly, Fox's just-released John Tucker Must Die was hurt; it fell from #4 to #13 with a 72% decrease -- though I can't imagine it would have done too well two weekends in a row. Another incentive for Fox, however, was its need to get Rocky Balboa into German cinemas next weekend. Exhibitors had threatened not to open the film if Fox didn't agree to demands.

Unfortunately for American cinemas, it probably isn't that easy to halt exhibition of any titles they choose to boycott. For some reason studios have a lot tighter hold on the theater business in the States. This news also shows how much Hollywood is more concerned with international box office than domestic. And I guess studios aren't worried about Germans importing American DVDs. If a movie like John Tucker Must Die can do so well over there, when it has been available on video here since November, then there's no worry if Eragon hits stores in the U.S. prior to six months from now.