This week, AMC Theatres and Universal Pictures sent shockwaves through Hollywood by sparking a new deal that would shorten the window between the theatrical release of a movie and its debut on VOD to just 17 days. The theatrical window has been a sticking point between studios and movie theaters for a long time, and it’s also been a big issue for Netflix when it comes to getting their original movies to play on the big screen. This new deal could set a new precedent that could change the distribution model forever.
And Regal Cinemas’ parent company Cineworld isn’t happy about it at all.
Deadline caught up with Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger, and he didn’t hold back when addressing the new deal. The executive of the second largest movie theater chain in the United States flatly said, “We do not see any business sense in this model.” Greidinger elaborated:
“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.”
Cineworld’s stance shouldn’t come as a surprise since they stood in solidarity with AMC Theatres when they originally vowed to ban any future Universal releases from playing on their screens as long as the studio broke the traditional 90-day theatrical release window. Now they’re directly opposed to each other as AMC Theatres has changed course entirely.
Though this new deal between AMC Theatres and Universal is seen as a game-changing endeavor, it’s important to note that it won’t make much of a difference unless other studios and theater chains make similar deals. As it stands, Deadline says this new deal with AMC Theatres and Universal is more of an experiment than anything, and it’s only happening in the U.S. for the time being. After all, there are a lot of unknown factors with regards to how this will impact box office revenue and audience engagement with movie theaters.
Honestly, I’m not sure the deal will have much of an impact on movie theater business. Audiences have already been veering away from smaller movies in theaters, opting to wait for them to arrive on VOD or taking more interest in streaming content from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and more recent streamers like HBO Max and Disney+. So the audiences who would hypothetically go to theaters to see those movies are already avoiding them. If anything, this may allow movies with low box office performance to rake in more money on VOD. And if theaters are getting part of that revenue, it could be good news for them too.
One of the downsides to this new deal is that mid-budget movies and indies could have less of a presence on the big screen. Movie theaters will rely more on blockbusters, which studios need to rake in money from the big screen, but that could still result in some theaters closing their doors, especially those that play more arthouse fare.
However, there is one example of how this deal might work out that doesn’t sound all that promising. Back in 2015, Paramount sparked a deal with AMC Theatres to shorten the theatrical windows for Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, and the box office certainly wasn’t booming, with the first earning $3.7 million and the latter making $18.3 million. However, it should be noted that those movies weren’t exactly rolling in great reviews, one being a niche horror comedy and the other being a tired sequel in a once-thriving franchise. Perhaps other movies will have more success.
At the end of the day, it’s going to take time for the results of a deal like this to be analyzed. Since we don’t know how long this new multi-year deal between AMC Theatres and Universal will last, we’ll just have to let the results reveal themselves over time.
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