Universal Pictures and AMC in game-changing agreement over movie releases

Trolls: World Tour (Credit: Universal)
Trolls World Tour (Credit: Universal)

Universal Pictures and the AMC cinema group, which owns Odeon in the UK, have come to a potentially historic agreement to shorten the length of time movies can play exclusively in the cinema.

Movies released by Universal will now made available for premium video on demand services just 17 days – or three weekends – after being unveiled in cinemas.

Read more: Odeon and AMC ban Universal movies

Embracing a new landscape for studios and cinema chains in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it's a huge shift from the previous 90 day window cinemas enjoyed for new movies.

It's also a considerable turnaround for Universal and AMC in particular, who fell out spectacularly over Universal's move to release certain films early following the closure of cinemas in lockdown.

Universal sidestepped cinemas completely to release Trolls World Tour in April, and also decided to release the movies The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma to VOD services early, causing AMC's CEO Adam Aron to announce that the chain would cease showing all Universal movies in retaliation.

The Invisible Man (Credit: Universal)
The Invisible Man (Credit: Universal)

At the time he said that the ban on Universal movies was 'not some hollow or ill-considered threat', but has now turned the decision on its head.

“AMC enthusiastically embraces this new industry model both because we are participating in the entirety of the economics of the new structure, and because premium video on demand creates the added potential for increased movie studio profitability, which should in turn lead to the green-lighting of more theatrical movies,” Aron said in a statement.

“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.”

Read more: Trolls sequel has history-making digital debut

Universal's vice chairman and chief distribution officer Peter Levinsohn added: “Universal’s commitment to innovation in how we deliver content to audiences is what our artists, partners and shareholders all expect of us, and we are excited about the opportunity this new structure presents to grow our business.

“We are grateful to AMC for their partnership and the leadership they have shown in working with us to reach this historic deal.”

The deal could potentially have a bearing on the release of new Bond movie No Time To Die on its release in November - Universal is distributing the film in the UK and internationally.