After initially feuding over the studio’s decision to send some of its movies to paid VOD, Universal and AMC Theatres recently struck a deal that would drastically reduce the window between when a movie could play on home video after its theatrical run. The usual grace period between these two events used to be around 90 days. The new deal sets it up to be 17 days. The decision was expected to make major waves in the film industry, and the first one has crashed on the metaphorical beach.
We do not see any business sense in this model. … While we don’t know the full details and we are always analyzing any move in the industry, we will analyze it. People need to be aware that the first big movie from Universal is coming only in six months so there is no pressure here. But we clearly see this as a wrong move at the wrong time. Clearly we are not changing our policy with regards to showing only movies that are respecting the theatrical window.
Theater chains held on to that lengthy exclusivity window because it meant patrons had to head to theaters owned and operated by AMC, Cinemark, Cineworld and more to see first-run features that they had been anticipating. No Marvel fan, as an example, wants to wait 90 days to see Black Widow when the rest of the world is seeing it in a theater (and spoiling it on social media).
But might a family wait to see a movie like Trolls World Tour or Minions if they knew that they could rent it at home, for around $25, 17 days after it played in theaters? Maybe. There’s less urgency to be the first to see certain titles. You can bet that Fast & Furious followers will be in line to see F9 in a theater the moment it's safe to do so. But others could choose to wait and see it at home.
There’s still a lot about the Universal and AMC deal that has yet to be clarified. Deadline suggests in its report that the 17-day window will be a U.S. experiment, and might not affect the way that Universal movies play out overseas. Also, we’re left to wonder how such a deal affects smaller titles that rely on rollout models to build momentum. We expect a lot of these details to emerge in the coming weeks.
For now, movie theaters in the U.S. remain closed, and new films such as Tenet, Mulan, A Quiet Place 2 and Wonder Woman 1984 hang in limbo. It’s encouraging to hear that discussions between entities like AMC and Universal are taking place, so that the industry can establish a new normal somewhere down the road. But based on the remarks of Cineworld’s CEO, not everyone is going to get on board with these alternative plans.