Back in April, Universal was one of the first studios to embrace premium VOD as a way to maintain some of their 2020 releases in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trolls World Tour proved to be a big hit for them but they were soon taken to task by AMC Theatres, who declared a future ban on all Universal movies for breaking the current theatrical window model. Of course, there hasn’t really been a way to follow through on that ban with most theatres remaining closed and no new Universal releases on the horizon, but the bad blood has continued to simmer… until now. AMC and Universal have reportedly worked out a deal that will allow Universal to utilize premium VOD moving forward with AMC apparently getting a cut of the profits. Hit the jump for more info.
According to Variety, Universal Pictures and AMC Theatres have signed a multi-year agreement that will allow Universal movies to premiere on premium video on demand services within three weeks of their theatrical debuts. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed but AMC is expected to share in the revenue from the premium digital rentals, which are typically priced at $20. It is worth noting that standard priced VOD rentals will still be required to wait until three months after the movies arrive in theatres (along with debuts on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon). Blockbuster movies like Jurassic World: Dominion or F9 are not likely to use premium VOD after only three weeks, but it gives Universal the flexibility to use it for smaller releases.
The big question now is whether other studios will try to make their own deals and whether other theatre chains will get in on the act as well. AMC has been on the verge of bankruptcy and theatres in general are struggling so they will no doubt be looking to secure any additional income they can. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that independent theatres will be able to forge their own agreements with studios so they will be the ones who suffer the most from this shift. Do you think this is a good compromise between studios and movie theatres or is this only going to devalue the theatrical experience even further?