AMC and Universal strike landmark deal for early home releases

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Leading US movie theater chain AMC and Universal Pictures announced a deal on Tuesday marking a watershed for Hollywood that will allow home audiences to watch major films much sooner than usual.

Under the agreement, Universal's new movies will be available to video-on-demand platforms after showing for three weekends, or 17 days, in theaters.

That marks a big change for the industry, where major films weren't released for home viewing before an average of three months in theaters.

"The theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business. 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," said Donna Langley, chair of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, in commenting on the deal.

AMC, the largest theater chain with 8,000 screens across North America, will share in the revenue from the on-demand business.

"AMC enthusiastically embraces this new industry model," said AMC CEO Adam Aron, adding it could help studio profits and lead to more new films.

"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," he added.

The full terms of the deal, which also applies to releases from Universal's Focus Features, were not disclosed.

The agreement comes as the movie industry is facing a sort of reckoning as the coronavirus pandemic has shut down movie theaters across the United States and brought movie productions to a screeching halt.

Still, the deal was a surprise as both companies have been at loggerheads after Universal Pictures had forged ahead with early digital releases.

AMC in April had announced that it will no longer play any Universal Pictures movies on its screens after the studio released the children's film sequel "Trolls World Tour" directly to on-demand platforms because of the pandemic.