Nov 16, 2020 - Economy

Cinemark strikes deal with Universal to shorten theatrical window

Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Cinemark, one of the largest movie exhibitors in the U.S., and Universal, the movie studio owned by Comcast, have struck a deal to allow many Universal films to appear on premium video on-demand services after being made available in theaters for 17 days (three full weekends).

Why it matters: It's a significant departure from the traditional 90-day theatrical window. Cinemark follows AMC to become the second of the four biggest movie theater chains to strike this type of deal. The deals will likely usher a new era for streaming.

Details: Under the terms of the partnership, the window of exclusivity gets bigger for more expensive movies.

  • Any title that opens to $50 million or more, including many franchise titles, will play exclusively in theaters for at least five full weekends (31 days) before the title may become available on PVOD.
  • Cinemark will likely take some sort of a cut for every movie that's sold by the studio to premium on-demand streaming, in return for a shortened window.

Be smart: Insiders were waiting for this to happen after Universal and AMC, the largest theater chain in the U.S., struck an a similar multi-year deal in July.

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a trend of studios pushing more movies to be made available for a premium rental price via a ticketed on-demand deal.

  • Most recently, Disney said last month it would be moving its holiday Pixar hit "Soul" to streaming exclusively.

The bottom line: Theater chains have been adamant that releasing movies on-demand at the same time they debut in theaters cannot become the new normal once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. But their years-long resistance to the idea is facing pressure as theaters remain closed due to social distancing guidelines.

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