Another installment in the thrilling saga of studios vs. theater chains in the times of COVID-19. As we know, the pandemic has kept theaters closed for the most part of the year, and although most studios have elected to push the release of their films into 2021 or beyond, others have moved select films to PVOD or a streaming service. Universal Pictures is one of those studios who have moved a handful of films to a PVOD release, including TROLLS: WORLD TOUR, but their new release strategy didn’t sit well with theater chains…at least at first.
AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron threatened that he would never again play any movies from Universal in his theaters, but months later, Universal and AMC came to a multi-year agreement which would see the theatrical release window shrink down to 17 days. Following that time, Universal would have the option to make titles available on PVOD platforms. Other theater chains, including Cinemark, weren’t convinced, with Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi saying, “We believe an exclusive theatrical window is critically important. While we have publicly stated we’re willing to have conversations with our studio partners to evolve with them, we are mindful that an overly aggressive shortened theatrical window could have an adverse impact on the mid-to-tail-end of a film’s life.” Well, Universal’s deal-making has struck again and, much like AMC, Cinemark has changed their tune. The two companies have reached an agreement that will shorten the theatrical window for all of Universal’s films, even after the pandemic comes to an end. The deal states that any Universal movie that opens to $50 million or more at the domestic box-office will be available via PVOD just 31 days after it premieres on the big-screen. All other films that fall under the Universal, Dreamworks Animation, or Focus Features banner will be made available after 17 days. Cinemark, and AMC for that matter, are expected to share in the revenue from these PVOD releases.
In a statement, Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said, “We believe a more dynamic theatrical window, whereby movie theaters continue to provide an event-sized launching platform for films that maximize box office and bolsters the success of subsequent distribution channels, is in the shared best interests of studios, exhibitors and, most importantly, moviegoers.” Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley added, “Universal’s century-long partnership with exhibition is rooted in the theatrical experience, and we are more committed than ever for audiences to experience our movies on the big screen.” With another big theater chain coming to an agreement with Universal, this is likely only the beginnings of a brave new world that will change the business for years to come.