AMC, Universal reach deal to shorten theatrical-only movie release window to 17 days
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AMC and Universal reached a deal to shorten the traditional theatrical-only movie release window to 17 days, including three weekends, before digital release, the companies announced Tuesday. 

Universal and AMC announced their multi-year agreement to reduce the average 90 days of theater exclusivity to speed up home viewing through premium video on demand platforms in a joint press release that comes as the coronavirus pandemic has drastically curtailed both cinema and live entertainment.

As part of the agreement, AMC will share in the revenue generated from premium video on demand rentals. The full terms of the contract are not being released. 

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“The theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business,” Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Chair Donna Langley said in a statement. “The partnership we’ve forged with AMC is driven by our collective desire to ensure a thriving future for the film distribution ecosystem and to meet consumer demand with flexibility and optionality.”

The Tuesday agreement only applies to AMC theaters within the U.S., and the companies plan to start discussing international distribution agreements for countries in Europe and the Middle East “in the coming weeks.”

AMC CEO Adam Aron said in a statement that the company “enthusiastically embraces this new industry model” because it will “expand the market and benefit us all.”

“This multi-year agreement preserves exclusivity for theatrical viewing for at least the first three weekends of a film’s release, during which time a considerable majority of a movie’s theatrical box office revenue typically is generated,” Aron said. 

“Focusing on the long-term health of our industry, we would note that just as restaurants have thrived even though every home has a kitchen, AMC is highly confident that moviegoers will come to our theatres in huge numbers in a post-pandemic world,” he added. 

It’s unclear if other studios will make similar agreements with AMC and if Universal will seek deals with other theaters. But two people with direct knowledge of the terms told the Los Angeles Times that AMC offered the same deal to all of the major studios.

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Movie theaters, including AMC, have been hit hard financially after most shut down because of the pandemic. Studios are delaying the release of multiple major films including Disney’s “Mulan” and Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” as coronavirus cases continue to surge across the country. 

Early in the pandemic, amid the theater closures, Universal decided to move its theatrical releases of multiple movies to digital retailers, charging $20 per 48-hour rental of movies. The studio also released the “Trolls World Tour” for online viewing the same day as its scheduled theatrical release.

The moves caused AMC to declare a ban on showing Universal movies in its theaters.