Universal and movie exhibitors, theaters to you and me, have been at war. Ever since the COVID shutdown hit and Universal shipped a load of titles direct to Premium Video On Demand (PVOD) in order to keep the income flowing, cutting theaters out of the loop, NATO (the other one!) have been blunt and direct in their criticism.
The National Association Of Theater Owners were attempting to hold the line against all studios deciding PVOD was the future and dooming theaters to irrelevance. A months-long simmering feud broke out with all other studios looking on to see if Universal were going to take a hit while enabling them to all pile into PVOD. NATO could not give an inch.
With a new Jurassic World, a new 007 and a new Fast And Furious all in the pipeline the theaters needed the Universal content to help COVID recovery. However they also needed to hold the line over release windows.
Now a multi-year agreement has been reached between Universal and AMC that is a compromise, but potentially paves the way to a change in the way movies are released forever.
The agreement between Universal Filmed Entertainment Group (UFEG) and AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc., the world’s largest theater owners, states that there will be at least three weekends (17 days) of theatrical exclusivity for all Universal Pictures and Focus Features theatrical releases. This corresponds to the period in which the vast majority of any movies theatrical box office is made.
However after that time the studio will have the option to make its titles available across premium video on demand (PVOD) platforms. So basically you can watch it in a theater like normal on release day. Or, if you can wait 17 days, you can pay a premium rental charge to watch it at home.
I am not really sure they have thought this through.
Traditional windows for electronic sell through, rental and standard video on demand remain unchanged. Other studios will be anxiously watching to see what happens.