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Months after they publicly engaged in a bitter feud, resulting in AMC saying they'd no longer play Universal films at their movie theaters, both AMC Theatres and Universal have signed a multi-year deal that will let the studio premiere their films on "premium video on-demand" just three weeks after they've come out in theaters.
This could end up having a major impact on the movie industry at large, as Variety (who reported on the deal) wrote that "rival studios are likely to begin pushing for exhibitors to grant them more flexibility when it comes to determining when and how their theatrical releases can make their way onto home entertainment platforms."
Feel free to make your own internal long-term predictions now.
Financial terms of the deal have yet to be revealed, but AMC CEO Adam Aron put out a statement that said his company will "share in these new revenue streams," with that being a reference to digital rentals. Note that, when they begin doing this, Universal can only put their films on premium on-demand, which means prospective viewers will have to pony up nearly $20 to watch. More basic (see: cheaper) on-demand fees in the single-digit range can't go up until three months after a film comes out in theaters.
The two sides coming together comes after their acrimonious dispute had previously played out (at least partially) in public view. The major shot in that feud came after AMC said they'd stop putting out Universal movies in their theaters, which came after Universal successfully released Trolls World Tour on digital platforms, and the few theaters that remained open, in the early days of the COVID pandemic.
In fact, things had been looking so dire for AMC that they had been expressing concerns about their company's survival as recently as last month (since then, renegotiating the terms of their debt has allowed for some breathing room).
On Tuesday, in contrast with that period, the two sides had nice things to say about one another.
“The theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business,” Donna Langley, the chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, said. “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.”
Aron, in speaking about how business has to adjust to adapt to COVID, said optimistically that he believes it will be similar to how people can make food at home but they still go to a restaurant. Whether or not you think that works as a comparison (restaurant food tends to be better than a microwave, and buying already-made food saves you time and effort) is up to you. But it would be pretty depressing to lose movie theaters, and inch us all one step closer to never leaving our
filthy holes filthy houses. He's doing his best to sell it.
“Focusing on the long-term health of our industry, we would note that just as restaurants have thrived even though every home has a kitchen, AMC is highly confident that moviegoers will come to our theaters in huge numbers in a post-pandemic world," Aron said. "As people enjoy getting out of their homes, we believe the mystical escape and magical communal experience offered at our theaters will always be a compelling draw, including as it does our big screens, big sound and big seats not to mention the alluring aroma of our perfectly prepared popcorn.”