Mayfair favourites could soon be toast as Disney pulls cult classics

Ottawa's Mayfair Theatre fears it will soon lose access to a vast library of indie film house mainstays such as Die Hard and The Rocky Horror Picture Show after The Walt Disney Company decided to extend its "vaulting" policy to 20th Century Fox.

Ottawa indie theatre losing access to vast catalogue of 20th Century Fox favourites

1975 cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show is now owned by the Walt Disney Company. (20th Century Fox/Getty Images)

It's the ending Lee Demarbre was hoping he'd never see.

The owner of Ottawa's Mayfair Theatre said he's about to lose his access to a vast library of indie film house mainstays such as Die Hard, The Sound of Music and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

It comes after The Walt Disney Company decided to extend its "vaulting" policy to 20th Century Fox, a studio it acquired when it bought parent company 21st Century Fox in March.

Under the policy, Disney movies are removed from theatrical distribution one year after their release, Demarbre said — and now those 20th Century Fox films are, too.

"They have that stipulation for all their movies," Demarbre said.

Mayfair Theatre owner Lee Demarbre says Disney is playing the role of villain as it curtails access to some of his customers' favourite films. (CBC)

The  prospect of losing The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the cult classic that has drawn costumed fans to interactive screenings at the Mayfair for years, would be the biggest blow, Demarbre said.

"On those Saturday nights when we showed Rocky Horror near midnight, once a month, I could go to bed knowing that we'll make enough money to break even that day," he said.

Cineplex spokesperson Sarah Van Lange told CBC Toronto The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the sole exemption from Disney's new policy.

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show is still available for booking, that is the only title available," she said.

Disney did not reply to CBC's attempts to clarify the situation.

Demarbre has reserved dates for both Rocky Horror and Die Hard until the end of the year, but he's not sure he'll be able to screen the movies.

"I actually don't know who to reach out to at this point. My good friends at 20th Century Fox, they're all now out of a job."

The Walt Disney Company acquired 21st Century Fox in March. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

The Mayfair has outlived other threats over its 87 years, including the shift to digital projection in 2012 and the more recent arrival of Cineplex Cinemas at nearby Lansdowne Park.

Now, the theatre will have to compete with Disney's new streaming service, Disney+, coming in November. Disney+ is expected to do battle with Netflix by maintaining exclusive control of the very titles the Mayfair has come to rely upon.

But Demarbre said he's confident the Mayfair will ride out this storm, too.

"I think the worst thing about it is Disney is taking away a few titles that we love showing and our members love seeing."


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