Universal, AMC Agree To Deal Allowing Theatrical Releases to Debut on VOD Early

Written by on 07/29/2020

Universal, AMC Agree To Deal Allowing Theatrical Releases to Debut on VOD Early

Via Variety

Universal Pictures and AMC Theatres have put aside a bitter feud and signed a multi-year agreement that will allow the studio’s films to premiere on premium video on-demand (VOD) within three weeks of their theatrical debuts.

The pact, sure to send shockwaves throughout the exhibition industry, has the potential to reshape the ways that movies are marketed and distributed. Rival studios are likely to begin pushing for exhibitors to grant them more flexibility when it comes to determining when and how their theatrical releases can make their way onto home entertainment platforms.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. However, in a statement, AMC’s CEO Adam Aron said the company will “share in these new revenue streams,” which means that it will get a cut of any money made on these digital rentals. Universal only has the ability to put its movies on premium on-demand, meaning the rentals that go for roughly $20 a pop. It cannot sell films or rent them for lower on-demand fees, in the $3 to $6 range, until three months after they debut in cinemas.

Even though Universal, under this new agreement, could theoretically debut the next “Jurassic World” or “Fast & Furious” installments on premium VOD with 17 days of their debut, they will likely have longer exclusive runs in cinemas. Instead, the studio has the option to capitalize on its new freedom with mid-budget fare, comedies, and horror movies that might not have as robust runs in cinemas. But if smaller movies perform better than expected on the big screen, Universal can wait to put it digital rental services. On its upcoming slate, Universal also has “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” “Halloween Kills” with Jamie Lee Curtis and spy thriller “355” with Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz and Lupita Nyong’o.

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In the coming weeks, the two companies will begin discussions surrounding international distribution agreements in the countries in Europe and the Middle East served by AMC.

As cinemas nationwide have struggled to reopen, AMC has been saddled with concerns of its liquidity. Even before the pandemic caused its locations to close for four months, the company was heavily indebted due to expensive refurbishments of its venues and deals to acquire rivals like Odeon and Carmike Cinemas. At one point, AMC looked on the verge of filing for bankruptcy, but it recently renegotiated terms of its debt that helped clean up its balance sheet.

This deal continues to signal the end of the movie theater era as we know it. On top of the adaptation of the staggard release schedule that has been adopted by ‘Tenet’, the theater experience will never be the same.  

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