Uni­ver­sal-AMC deal shrinks cin­ema’s ‘the­atri­cal win­dow’

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By

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

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