It was the fight heard round the world when AMC Theatres decreed that Universal films would no longer play in its theaters. As current events dictated Premium VOD debuts for films that would have normally started life in the major theater chains of the world, the theatrical giant vowed that it wouldn’t show films that flouted the traditional rules of exhibition. However, a major deal between AMC and Universal has now been reached, leading to some pretty big changes in the world of movies headed to the theaters.
Per the new agreement, reported by Bloomberg Business reporter Lucas Shaw on Twitter, Universal films like Candyman, No Time To Die and F9 would now be shown once again at AMC Theaters locations. So the proposed freeze on showing Universal content in AMC chains is now discarded, with a specific 17-day exclusivity period now required for films to be shown at the chain’s various venues. After that point, a Premium VOD release like the one Trolls: World Tour, The Invisible Man and other Universal/Focus titles saw happening throughout this summer would be allowed. Per another report from Variety, AMC Theatres and Universal would share the revenue from this model, which would require films only be offered as $20 PVOD rentals, without the option to buy.
While this does sound like a pretty big step forward for both Universal and AMC Theatre’s relations, there’s one pretty important question that needs to be answered: will there be a threshold as to how many locations a film like Jurassic World: Dominion will need to play in during that 17 day exclusivity period? As films will undoubtedly be looking at a Tenet-inspired model, where opening in locations based on availability will be the new norm, there’s a potential that the number of screens Universal’s films open on will be a point of order in this soon to be tested paradigm.
Another pretty big question is whether or not Universal has already struck, or is close to striking that deal, with AMC Theatres competitor Regal Cinemas. As Regal also previously vowed to ban Universal content that broke exhibition protocols, one would think that it had a similar discussion with the major studio, in hopes of mending fences in the name of commerce. Which, ultimately, leads to the big reason why AMC Theatres probably made this deal in the first place.
It goes without saying that AMC is going to want to open up as many locations as it possibly can. To do that, major studios need to provide content, both from their library of legacy titles as well as fresh new films. Sure enough, one such film that AMC Theatres are definitely going to want to run is co-writer/director Nia De Costa’s Candyman reboot, which opens on October 16. Now with the agreement between studio and exhibitor in place, both parties can take part in the grosses to be made on theatrical and Premium VOD debuts within those crucial early phases of rollout.
Perhaps the greatest question is if this deal between AMC Theatres and Universal will lead to a precedent that other studios and chains will be able to follow. Could Warner Bros release Tenet in Regal Cinemas, with an exclusivity pact very similar to that of the one AMC and Universal have struck? We’ll have to wait and see how the particulars shake out, but one thing is certain: the world feels like it’s gotten one step closer to going back to the movies. The clock is ticking, as Warner Bros is looking to get Tenet into US theaters by September 3, and the negotiation table looks like it's open for business.