Universal agrees another US deal to shorten the theatrical window

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Two of the biggest cinema chains in the US have now agreed to significantly shortened cinema exclusivity windows: more details.

Universal has signed a landmark deal with the Cinemark chain in the US, agreeing to shortened theatrical windows for its movies, whilst offering a slice of the ensuing PVOD (premium video on demand) profits to the cinema chain. The agreement is the same in principle as the deal the studio struck with AMC in July, meaning that the country’s first and third-largest cinema chains are now set to operate in this fashion across a ‘multi-year deal’.

According to Deadline, the length of the theatrical window will be judged in a case-by-case basis, falling into one of two categories: if a film’s opening earns more than $50m, it will be granted a 31-day theatrical exclusivity window. However, if it opens with less, the window will be just 17 days. This means that over the next couple of years, films like Fast & Furious 9 and Jurassic World: Dominion will be available to watch within the home, in the US at least, within 31 days of their cinema release.

It’s been estimated that AMC and Cinemark will get around 2% each of the PVOD revenue, whilst its worth nothing that just because a film becomes available for home rental, it doesn’t mean its cinema run ends. Rather that it will be available to view in either format.

The 90 day theatrical window has traditionally been seen as vital in preserving the institution of cinema and it’s inevitable that the move may draw criticism from some quarters, heralding accusations of ‘the death of cinema’.

However, in the current climate at least, Universal’s shortened window deal with AMC has allowed the studio to consistently release films theatrically, knowing that should they fail due to cinema shutdowns or waning audience numbers, they can carry the momentum of a new release quickly into the PVOD market. It’s an approach that has at the very least meant a fresh supply of new films for cinemas, which have otherwise largely been starved of material by other studios such as Disney, for example.

The second-largest chain in the US, Cineworld,  seem vehemently opposed to the idea still, but it along with the other studios will be watching closely to see how events transpire throughout the duration of the deal. Only time will tell if the era of the 90-day theatrical window are truly numbered…

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