Universal and Cinemark have struck a deal to shorten the time frame for films to be released on digital platforms to 17 days after theatrical release.
Universal and Cinemark have struck a major deal to shorten the amount of time a movie plays in theaters before moving to on-demand distribution. One of Universal’s latest releases, Freaky, is already operating under this shortened theatrical release deal, as the movie debuted in theaters on November 13th and will be available on streaming platforms just 17 days later on November 30th. This shorter time frame is an attempt to keep releasing films in movie theaters while also addressing the potential on-demand audience staying home due to the pandemic.
Universal has been quick to adapt to COVID-19’s impact on the industry, as it has churned out a fair few movies like Freaky and Come Play due to its premium video-on-demand agreements with theaters. Months ago, the company struck a deal with AMC Theatres that allowed them to put new releases on digital rental services after 17 days of theatrical release — dramatically shortened from Hollywood’s typical 75 to 90 days that films play exclusively in theaters. With this agreement, Universal would be able to continue releasing films accessible during a pandemic without severely disrupting the movie theater experience. Universal would share in the digital profits with AMC due to the shorter time frame for theater attention.
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Following the AMC Theatres agreement, Universal turned to Cinemark. According to Variety, the new Universal-Cinemark deal has established that any movie that earns more than $50 million in opening weekend sales must stay playing in theaters for at least five weekends before the film may be released on digital platforms. Titles that do not reach this benchmark, though, can be made available on digital platforms after just 17 days.
The pandemic has required adaptive means to distributing and receiving content, which has recently meant turning to streaming platforms. With Universal’s theater-to-digital agreements, though, they guarantee that movies will have their time in theaters and at home. In fact, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley said of the agreements, “Universal’s century-long partnership with exhibition is rooted in the theatrical experience, and we are more committed than ever for audiences to experience our movies on the big screen.” She adds that Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi has done a great job giving the studio the confidence to release their movies into the market, keep content moving, and “provide consumers with the optionality that they are looking for.”
In the past months, the threat of a spreading virus has closed many theater doors. However, as the industry slowly starts adapting to the new future of distribution, it seems movie theaters are still going to be a crucial part. AMC has said its deal with Universal is mainly why they are able to stay open. The movie theater experience is not to be done away with in exclusive favor of at-home watching. Rather, Universal has sought to compromise — instead of either a movie theater or at-home viewing experience, its agreements with AMC and Cinemark give movies the space in theaters and at home.
Perhaps Universal has set in motion a future where the theater experience will sit side by side with the on-demand experience. In fact, most filmmakers and fans alike might agree that big blockbusters like the Jurassic Park franchise can only be fully experienced in a theater. To revisit the experience or more easily access it on-demand, though, may also be widely agreed upon. In the meantime, viewers can anticipate — either in theaters or weeks later at home — Universal’s upcoming The Croods: A New Age set for a November 25th release and News of the World featuring Tom Hanks on Christmas Day.
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