July 28, 2020

AMC and Universal Are Changing Film Distribution Forever

Universal Studios
The major studio and major chain may have hastened the demise of the theatrical business model.

It was just a few months ago that Adam Aron, CEO and president of AMC Entertainment, wrote a very angry, very public letter to Universal Studios head Donna Langley. (Was that just April? What is time anymore?)

The giants were publicly sparring over the premium video-on-demand release of Trolls World Tour, and the studio's apparent intent to continue releasing its films on-demand the same day they got theatrical releases. Aron and AMC were not happy about this.

"This radical change by Universal to the business model that currently exists between our two companies represents nothing but downside for us and is categorically unacceptable to AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest collection of movie theatres," Aron wrote to Langley in April. "Going forward, AMC will not license any Universal movies in any of our 1,000 theatres globally on these terms."

Yikes. You can read the full letter on Deadline.

Trolls World Tour
Credit: Universal

But today, these two mammoth figures of the film industry have made a deal to change the timeline of film distribution in a way that makes everyone happy. Big Hollywood films will now make their way into living rooms and laptop screens faster than ever.

Now, Universal and Focus Features films will get an AMC run for a 17-day exclusive theatrical window. Then Universal can take the film to PVOD platforms. This includes the AMC Theaters on Demand service. AMC will still see a cut of those PVOD profits.

The films will cost at least $19.99 for on-demand viewing.

Bigger, blockbuster movies that will benefit from longer theatrical runs will likely not go immediately to PVOD release, like the new Fast & Furious or Jurassic World sequels.

The major studios have been talking about changes to the theatrical release model for a long time. Typically, films spend about 90 days in the theater before they move to other outlets. Langley said in October that "it's a nonstarter for the companies to have the conversation with exhibition. Our agendas are not aligned at all."

Turns out that a global pandemic was all that was needed to spark the conversation, it seems. Now Aron says that AMC "enthusiastically embraces this new industry model" and that the new deal will benefit both companies.

What do you think? Are you excited to pay $20 to watch new releases at home, or would you rather have longer theatrical runs? Let us know in the comments!     

Your Comment

7 Comments

The pandemic has brought home a fact that I knew all along but thought was simply a misunderstand.....I dont need theaters.

There was a time that it represented an amazing outing with friends, romantic dates and grand events. But over time the sheen wore off from people texting during the movie, people holding full on conversation during the movie and of course the ever rising price of tickets.

I justified the latter as the premium offerings of recliners and being able to pre-select my seat made the value add more consumable.

But with the pandemic I came to realize that the only thing that puts my butt in a theater opening night is the fear of spoilers on social media. But even with that looming, I would rather wait for a digital release of the movie and watch it at home then return to a movie theater.

July 28, 2020 at 8:15PM

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Agree. I love the theatre and I'll pay for the experience. But other people now ruin it and I'm always stressed/anxious about if I have to deal with people talking. That plus out of the two closer cinemas to me (one of them a premium experience model), they both have some screens with quality issues. It's just more hassle for what it's worth.

July 29, 2020 at 2:24AM

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TJ
96

If the $20 is a digital download that I own, (for personal use of course) then... no problem. But it's too much for a one time viewing.

July 29, 2020 at 2:19AM

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Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
1379

I think the price is factoring what it would cost for a couple to see a one-time viewing in the theater. The problem with this model is that we are not seeing it in a theatrical presentation unless we have shelled out for the home theater experience. That will make this price model hard to swallow for most in a world where some still lament about spending .99 on an app.

July 29, 2020 at 6:37AM

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Benja Lockridge
Filmmaker
190

TVs are getting bigger, cheaper and better quality. I only go to the teather for films with a “wide scope” photography, or where the visuals are worth it. Dunkirk and First Man were fantastic at the cinema! That makes only a few movies per year good enough for teathers. Besides you have a ton of streaming series with amazing quality that look like long movies. Tough competition!

July 29, 2020 at 5:28AM

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Javier Diez
Director/Writer
346

I think home theaters are going to become more and more popular.

July 29, 2020 at 6:34AM

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Benja Lockridge
Filmmaker
190

I think they're both making a mistake, I prefer longer theatrical windows to that. Much better. It's A solution, and it might be the only solution.
I hope Universal and AMC increases the theatrical window to 30 to 40 days... just in case it backfires or something like that.

July 30, 2020 at 1:52AM

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Jesse J. Tripp
Screenwriter
124