The movie studio Universal Pictures and top theater chain AMC Entertainment have reached an agreement that would allow new films to head straight into your living room after at least three weekends in U.S. cinemas, a move that could have major implications for Hollywood’s business model and the future of moviegoing.
The deal, announced in a news release Tuesday afternoon, hands AMC the exclusive right to screen films from Universal and its art-house division, Focus Features, for some 17 days in the U.S. — a dramatic departure from the traditional “theatrical window” of roughly 90 days. (Universal Pictures is a unit of NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.)
The agreement gives Universal the option to shift movies from theaters to premium video-on-demand services after that roughly three-week window, including AMC Theatres On Demand, an iTunes-style platform that allows customers to rent and purchase movies, new releases and classics alike.
“The theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business. 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,” Donna Langley, the chairman of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, said in a statement accompanying the news release.
Universal is the studio behind lucrative, globally popular franchises such as “Jurassic World,” “Fast & Furious” and the “Despicable Me” series of animated movies. The studio’s business decisions around theatrical exhibition and at-home viewing could be a bellwether for competitors of comparable size, such as Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros.
The two companies did not announce an official start date for the pact as the vast majority of movie theaters across the U.S. are still closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Universal has moved aggressively into at-home viewing in recent months, releasing the children’s film “Trolls World Tour” and the Judd Apatow dramedy “The King of Staten Island” directly to video on-demand platforms.
Claire Atkinson contributed.