Alice in Wonderland because of a row with the film's maker, Disney.' />

With its red carpet, parking for limousines and baying fans behind crowd barriers, the Odeon Leicester Square has long been the venue of choice for film executives wanting to take the full glitz of a Hollywood premiere to Britain.

Tomorrow morning (NZST) will be no exception when a host of stars, including Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway, parade before the cameras for the first showing worldwide of the next would-be 3D blockbuster, Alice in Wonderland.

What makes the unveiling of director Tim Burton's project unique is that, barring an unlikely last-minute change of heart, the gala showing at the Odeon Leicester Square is the sole occasion on which the multimillion-dollar film will be seen at any of the 834 screens operated by Britain's largest cinema chain.

Odeon & UCI, which operates more than 107 sites in Britain, confirmed yesterday it was boycotting Alice in Wonderland because of a row with the film's maker, Disney, over how long they would be allowed to show the movie before it is released on DVD.

Odeon, whose decision could cost Disney up to £40 million ($89 million) in lost revenue, will not be showing the film in its Irish or Italian cinemas either.

It may seem like just a squabble over whether cinemas should be given rights to show a movie for 17 weeks - as Odeon demands - or 12 weeks, as Disney is seeking to achieve. But there is a far more fundamental dispute that goes to the heart of the ability of the Hollywood studios and their US$65 billion ($94 billion) industry to make enough money to survive.

A mixture of piracy and the economic downturn has reduced DVD sales in Britain by about 10 per cent and in the United States by 13 per cent. One studio, MGM, is facing a fall in America from US$140 million in 2007 to a projected US$30.4 million for 2010.

According to one industry estimate, the global loss in revenue from DVDs to Hollywood could be as much as US$14 billion by the end of the year.

But with cinema ticket sales booming, does this matter?

In Britain last year, admissions grew by almost 10 million to 173.5 million - more than triple the 1984 figure of 54 million - despite prices which can be as much as £20 per person in the premium seats of a West End cinema.

The problem for Hollywood is that DVD sales make up 50 per cent of income from every film made. Only 20 per cent comes from their share of ticket sales.

There has been a split between Britain's cinema operators as Disney seeks to use its 3D flagship Alice in Wonderland to set a new three-month gap between cinema and DVD release for some of its films.

While Odeon has gone along with a "gentleman's agreement" between cinemas and studios to set the gap at 17 weeks, Cineworld, Britain's second-largest chain, has struck a deal with Disney to show Alice in Wonderland for 13 weeks.

Vue, the third-largest operator, reached an agreement with Disney to put the film on for "around 13 weeks" from its general release on March 5. The same debate is being played out across Europe and North America.

Odeon points out that while the DVD release "window" has dwindled from six months to 17 weeks in the past decade, it has had to spend large sums of money on upgrading to digital technology.

The chain is also concerned that if it surrenders to Disney's demands, a 12-week release will become the norm and film-lovers will choose not to go out to see movies, because they know that a DVD version will soon be available.

- INDEPENDENT