Cineplex—Canada’s largest cinema operator and the fourth-largest operator in North America—has joined AMC and Cinemark in striking a deal with Universal that will see the theatrical exclusivity window for that studio’s titles reduced to as little as 17 days.
Under the new “dynamic window” agreement—the same phrase used by Cinemark—Universal and Focus Features titles that debut in North America to $50 million or more (including franchise titles) will get a theatrical exclusivity window of 31 days, or five weekends, before it can be moved to PVOD. All other Universal and Focus titles are guaranteed three full weekends (17 days) of theatrical exclusivity.
There has been no mention of whether Cineplex will enter into a revenue-sharing deal with Universal for their titles once they hit the home video market; AMC has such a deal, while there was no mention of one in the case of Cinemark. Like AMC, Cineplex has their own streaming platform—called the Cineplex Store—where Universal and Focus titles will be available after their shift to PVOD. In Cineplex’s most recent earnings call, President and CEO Ellis Jacob cited the success of Cineplex Store in 2020, noting that its customer base has increased by 41 percent to 1.8 million registered users compared to 2019.
As with Cinemark, Cineplex clarifies that their deal with Universal is “multi-year,” indicating that the dynamic window arrangement will extend past the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has given the industry and movie-lovers around the globe a new appreciation for the magic of the big screen experience,” said Cineplex’s Jacob in a statement. “We are pleased to work alongside like-minded partners such as Universal, a studio that respects the theatrical window and is committed to the sustainable long-term health of the theatrical ecosystem.”
Added Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Chairman Donna Langley: “With audience fragmentation accelerating due to the rise in digital, streaming, and cord cutting, as well as the unprecedented issues our industry is facing right now, our relationship with exhibition had to evolve and adapt to the changing distribution landscape. Giving consumers the flexibility to view content on their terms is more important than ever to help expand moviegoing, and Ellis and our partners at Cineplex allow us to increase these opportunities for our Canadian audience.”
Several details on how the dynamic theatrical window will apply in specific situations remain unknown, for example: whether a “weekend” is a three-day weekend only or includes extended holiday weekends, and how much flexibility there is in a title that debuts under $50 million going to PVOD in 17 days. The next Universal title to hit theaters is The Croods: A New Age, coming out in North America next Wednesday, November 25. Other Universal/Focus titles hitting theaters this year are Half Brothers (12/4), All My Life (12/4), News of the World (12/25) and Promising Young Woman (12/25).
With this deal, three of the top five chains in North America have committed to a shortened theatrical window for Universal and Focus titles, with fifth-largest Marcus Theatres and second-largest Cineworld/Regal—the latter still closed in the U.K. and the U.S.—the outliers.
No other studios have yet inked an official deal similar to Universal’s, though some have foregone the traditional theatrical exclusivity windows for individual titles so far in 2020. Among the most prominent of those is Warner Bros., which yesterday announced Wonder Woman 1984 will be getting a domestic day-and-date release in theaters and on HBOMax. In October, Paramount pursued a day-and-date release for teen actioner Love & Monsters; their The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run did not screen theatrically in the U.S.—though it did in Canadian cinemas, including Cineplex. Most recently, Paramount’s Coming 2 America, previously scheduled to arrive in cinemas in December, was acquired by Amazon Studios and will debut on SVOD platform Amazon Prime Video in March. Disney abandoned theatrical runs altogether for titles like Hamilton, Mulan, Artemis Fowl, The One and Only Ivan, and Soul, opting to move them to their Disney+ platform instead.