Universal and AMC Theaters have announced a multi-year agreement in which films released under the Universal Pictures and Focus Features banners will be exhibited in AMC Theaters across the United States with a 17-day theatrical window. Until now, the theatrical window has lasted 90 days. The new agreement means films released by Universal Pictures and Focus Features can play in AMC Theaters for three weekends before hitting premium video on demand platforms, including AMC Theatres On Demand. Discussions between the two parties around international distribution agreements are still to come.
“The theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business,” said Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley. “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.”
Added Universal vice chairman and chief distribution officer Peter Levinsohn, “Universal’s commitment to innovation in how we deliver content to audiences is what our artists, partners and shareholders all expect of us, and we are excited about the opportunity this new structure presents to grow our business. We are grateful to AMC for their partnership and the leadership they have shown in working with us to reach this historic deal.”
“AMC enthusiastically embraces this new industry model both because we are participating in the entirety of the economics of the new structure, and because premium video on demand creates the added potential for increased movie studio profitability, which should in turn lead to the green-lighting of more theatrical movies,” said AMC CEO Adam Aron. “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.”
The game-changing agreement follows a turbulent 2020 for the relationship between Universal and AMC Theaters. The exhibition company announced in April it was putting a ban on Universal Pictures titles after the studio side-stepped theaters and released “Trolls World Tour” directly on PVOD platforms. The studio also broke the 90-day theatrical window to make offerings such as “The Invisible Man,” “The Hunt,” and “Emma” available on PVOD platforms after their theatrical releases were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
NBCUniversal film chief Jeff Shell continued to rock the boat after the AMC Theaters ban by announcing the studio was planning to continue with releasing certain titles on PVOD platforms even after theaters started re-opening. Shell’s comments arrived after the PVOD success of “Trolls World Tour.” The executive told the Wall Street Journal, “The results for ‘Trolls World Tour’ have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD. As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”
Universal and AMC Theaters have now put the tension behind them with this new agreement. The full terms of the deal are confidential and are not being disclosed.