Universal strikes another deal with a major theater chain

AP Entertainment

A shopper walks past a closed AMC movie theater Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Santa Monica, Calif. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is imposing an overnight curfew as the most populous state tries to head off a surge in coronavirus cases. On Thursday, Newsom announced a limited stay-at-home order in 41 counties that account for nearly the entire state population of just under 40 million people. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Another major movie theater chain has struck a deal with Universal Pictures to allow for shorter exclusive theatrical windows. Canada’s Cineplex has agreed on a multiyear “dynamic window” agreement, the film exhibitor and Universal Filmed Entertainment Group said Friday.

Like the deal struck with Cinemark earlier this week and AMC Theaters before that, Universal and Focus Features films will have at least three weeks of theatrical exclusivity before hitting premium video on demand services. Titles that have an opening weekend of $50 million or more in North American theaters will be guaranteed at least five weeks in theaters.

The $50 million mark is just theoretical at this point, however. In normal times, a $50 million launch is not uncommon for Universal’s biggest franchises like “Fast & Furious” and “Jurassic World.” But no films have done that kind of business during the pandemic.

“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,” said Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. “Giving consumers the flexibility to view content on their terms is more important than ever to help expand moviegoing.”

Theater owners have long adhered to a strict 90-day theatrical exclusivity window, but the devastating effects of the pandemic on the movie business have forced many to adapt and compromise.

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