Universal & AMC Theatres to shrink theatrical release window to just 17 days

Universal & AMC Theatres to shrink theatrical release window to just 17 days

Cineworld Group Plc, the second-largest cinema-chain operator in the world, slammed a landmark pact between its larger competitor AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and Universal Pictures that shortens the time theaters can exclusively show new movies.

AMC could take a 10% cut of each video sold by the studio to viewers on-demand, sources tell the Hollywood Reporter.

That's a significant change from the norm, in which major films aren't released for home viewing until an average of 90 days after their big-screen premiere. That's not to say that every Universal film will wind up on PVOD after 17 days; if a film is still performing well, it will get to spend its full run in theaters.

"AMC enthusiastically embraces this new industry model both because we are participating in the entirety of the economics of the new structure, and because premium video-on-demand creates the added potential for increased movie studio profitability, which should in turn lead to the green-lighting of more theatrical movies", AMC's chief executive, Adam Aron, said in a statement.

Universal Studios' chair, Donna Langley, said: "The theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business". Aron said the company would no longer play Universal releases and claimed he would do the same for any distributor that "unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us". The companies said they reached this agreement based on their shared commitment to a mutually beneficial long-term partnership that is focused on serving consumers worldwide while preserving and enhancing the theatrical experience.

AMC Theatres is aiming to reopen its cinemas, which have been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, in August.

The company in mid-March announced plans to move its theatrical releases to digital retailers, charging $20 for a 48-hour rental of movies, including "The Invisible Man", "The Hunt" and "Emma". The typical theatrical release window is usually around 3 months, so 17 days is quite the departure from the way business has been done for years.

Universal has opted to postpone its largest upcoming films - including F9 and Minions - into next year. By reducing the period Universal has to wait to put its movies onto premium video on-demand platforms - known as PVOD - other cinemas will effectively have to either follow suit or boycott films from the studio.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but AMC is expected to share in the profits from any movie that goes to premium VOD early.

Tuesday's agreement repairs a rift between AMC and Universal brought on by the on-demand release of "Trolls World Tour" in April. Shell later declared the "Trolls" experiment a success and said the studio would pursue similar releases for its future movies. Exhibitors, including AMC, are now planning on a large-scale reopening by late August, with Warner Bros.′ Tenet prepared to usher moviegoers back over the Labor Day weekend, after debuting a week earlier overseas.

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