Universal-AMC deal shrinks cinema’s ‘theatrical window’
AMC, the world’s biggest cinema operator, has struck a potentially revolutionary deal with Universal Studios to cut the delay between movies making their debuts in US cinemas and becoming available online.
The agreement will reduce the previously sacrosanct “theatrical window” from as much as 90 days to just 17 and puts pressure on other studios and cinema chains to follow suit. It only applies to the US at this stage.
The pact also resolves a bitter dispute between the two companies that followed Universal’s decision to release
Trolls World Tour for online rental in April while cinemas were closed due to the pandemic.
AMC, which owns Odeon, retaliated by vowing not to exhibit any Universal titles until it reached a new agreement with the Comcast-owned studio. Regal and Cinemark, the second and thirdlargest US cinema chains, also backed their bigger rival.
Its chief Adam Aron said AMC “enthusiastically embraces this new industry model … premium video on demand creates the added potential for increased movie studio profitability, which should in turn lead to the greenlighting of more theatrical movies”.
The deal means new releases will have three full weekends in cinemas – the period in that most films make the bulk of their box office revenues. AMC will also get an unspecified slice of online rental revenue.
No real test of the model will occur until next year as Universal has delayed the release of blockbusters such as the latest Jurassic World and Fast & Furious instalments.
Studios have long sought more flexibility as they get a bigger slice of revenue from online rentals and purchases than cinema ticket sales.
Trolls World Tour made $100m (£77m) online – as much as its predecessors did at the box office – and meant Universal did not have to split that roughly 50/50 with cinemas.
“The partnership we’ve forged with AMC is driven by our collective desire to ensure a thriving future for the film distribution ecosystem and to meet consumer demand with flexibility,” said Universal boss Donna Langley.
Michelle Rodriguez as Letty in ‘Fast and Furious nine’, due to be released next year Chris Johnston