Universal has consistently maintained that it is committed to theatrical releases and that PVOD is only being considered as a possible option for certain titles like "King of Staten Island", which also moved to PVOD this summer as theaters remained closed.
The deal follows a period when the pair came to blows over the decision by Universal to release Trolls World Tour straight to PVOD alongside theatrical distribution in a small number of drive-in theatres. In the past, 90-day theatrical windows were the standard.
It's unclear whether Universal will secure a similar agreement with other exhibitors, or whether other studios, such as Walt Disney Co., Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. or Sony Pictures, would make a similar pact with AMC. "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 continued.
Vice Chairman and Chief Distribution Officer of UFEG Peter Levinsohn, who led negotiations on behalf of the studio, added, "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".
Thankfully, it seems that the two companies have made peace as they've made a multi-year agreement which will see the theatrical release window shrink down to 17 days. "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", said Donna Langley, chair of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, in commenting on the deal.
For the largest movie chain in America to announce that they wouldn't be showing movies from one of the major studios was a big deal, but it was clear that Universal was in the power position here. Universal in April tested the waters by releasing "Trolls World Tour" as an online rental, skipping a scheduled theatrical bow.
The movies will be available on digital retailers such as iTunes, Amazon Prime and YouTube, as well as on Comcast-owned video-on-demand platforms and AMC's own movie-selling site, AMC Theatres On Demand.
If successful, the strategy might be adopted by other film studios and movie theater chains.
It added: "Going forward, AMC will not license any Universal movies in any of our 1,000 theatres globally on these terms". However, the public health crisis has forced studios to delay their premiere dates. Exhibitors are now planning on a large-scale reopening by late August, with Warner Bros.' Tenet prepared to usher moviegoers back over the Labor Day weekend, after debuting a week earlier overseas. Walt Disney Co. last week postponed plans to release its live-action "Mulan" remake indefinitely.