AMC Theatres Welcomes Back Universal Titles Under Shortened Theatrical Exclusivity Window

AMC Theatres (CNW Group/Cineplex)

Universal titles will be welcome at AMC Theatres once the circuit reopens in August—and available on Premium Video on Demand (PVOD) platforms much earlier than previously possible. 

AMC has come to an agreement with Universal Filmed Entertainment Group (UFEG) to carry the studio’s releases across its global network of 11,000 screens in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. Relations between the circuit and studio had soured following the PVOD launch of Universal’s Trolls World Tour, leading AMC to abandon release plans for any future Universal titles.

Today’s announcement marks the end to those tensions and effectively alters the entire theatrical distribution landscape worldwide. The agreement significantly decreases the period of theatrical exclusivity for all Universal and Focus Features titles that play on AMC’s screens—down from an industry average of 2 months and twenty-one days in 2019 to a minimum of three weekends (17-days), at which point the studio can move titles to PVOD.

AMC’s own PVOD platform is among those that will offer Universal titles immediately after the shortened window through a revenue-sharing plan with the studio. Other home entertainment windows, such as traditional Video on Demand (VOD) and Electronic Sell Through (EST), will remain unchanged. 

“AMC enthusiastically embraces this new industry model both because we are participating in the entirety of the economics of the new structure, and because premium video on demand creates the added potential for increased movie studio profitability, which should in turn lead to the green-lighting of more theatrical movies,” commented AMC CEO Adam Aron in a statement.

“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. AMC will also share in these new revenue streams that will come to the movie ecosystem from premium video on demand. So, in total, Universal and AMC each believe this will expand the market and benefit us all. Focusing on the long-term health of our industry, we would note that just as restaurants have thrived even though every home has a kitchen, AMC is highly confident that moviegoers will come to our theaters in huge numbers in a post-pandemic world. As people enjoy getting out of their homes, we believe the mystical escape and magical communal experience offered at our theaters will always be a compelling draw, including as it does our big screens, big sound, and big seats not to mention the alluring aroma of our perfectly prepared popcorn. Universal and AMC have partnered in bringing stellar movies to moviegoers for a full century. With this historic industry changing agreement, together we will continue to do so and in a way that should drive success for us both,” stated Aron.

This deal represents a significant impact on theatrical exclusivity windows, a contentious topic in the exhibition community. In 2015, during the first year of Aron’s tenure as CEO of AMC, the circuit announced a similar pact with Paramount that would similarly shorten theatrical exclusivity

That plan was scrapped months later after heavy criticism from other exhibition circuits as to what they perceived to be a unilateral decision with longstanding and wide-ranging implications for the rest of the industry.

“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,” stated Vice Chairman and Chief Distribution Officer of UFEG Peter Levinsohn in a press release. “We are grateful to AMC for their partnership and the leadership they have shown in working with us to reach this historic deal.”

“The theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business,” added Donna Langley, Chairman, UFEG. “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.” 

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