Universal Pictures continues to make moves in this new age that has blurred the lines between theatrical and PVOD releases. After shrinking the theatrical to PVOD window with unprecedented deals with AMC Entertainment and Cinemark, the studio has made the same deal with Cineplex, Canda’s largest movie chain.
Cineplex follows AMC and Cinemark to endorse Universal Pictures’ new premium video-on-demand (PVOD) window as exhibitors have to embark on a new future as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused release patterns to change. The two parties struck a multi-year agreement that will set a 17-day exclusive theatrical window for small and midrange films and a 31-day window for larger tentpole releases, which will typically be a film that opens to $50 million or more domestically. After those windows are passed, Universal is free to offer its movies on PVOD. Cineplex president-CEO Ellis Jacob had this to say about the new deal:
“The pandemic has given the industry and movie-lovers around the globe a new appreciation for the magic of the big screen experience. We are pleased to work alongside like-minded partners such as Universal, a studio that respects the theatrical window and is committed to the sustainable long-term health of the theatrical ecosystem.”
Universal Pictures is really leading the charge on shrinking the typical theatrical to PVOD window. So far they’re the only studio to make moves on this and, as far as exhibitors are concerned, it seems like Regal Cinemas is one of the only major entities not playing ball on this. When Universal struck the deal with AMC, Regal was very critical of the agreement but that was when there seemed like some hope movie theaters would fully reopen before the end of the year. Cinemark was also in league with Regal but, as you can see, they changed their tune. I have to wonder if they’re having a change of heart. Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chair Donna Langley had this to say about why their relationship with exhibitors had to change:
“With audience fragmentation accelerating due to the rise in digital, streaming and cord-cutting, as well as the unprecedented issues our industry is facing right now, our relationship with exhibition had to evolve and adapt to the changing distribution landscape.”
It’s the dawn of the new normal for theatrical releases. I LOVE The movie theater experience but there is no denying that the pandemic has caused a major need to change the release window. One could argue that this writing was on the wall even before the pandemic but the public health crisis has certainly accelerated matters. I’m honestly very curious how things will really change in the months and years ahead.
What do YOU think of Universal’s monopoly on shrinking the theatrical to PVOD window?