The new agreement means films released by Universal Pictures and Focus Features can play in AMC Theaters for three weekends before hitting premium video on demand platforms, including AMC Theatres On Demand.
AMC retaliated by vowing not to exhibit any Universal titles until it reached a new agreement with the Comcast-owned studio.
That's a significant change from the norm, in which major films aren't released for home viewing until an average of 90 days after their big-screen premiere.
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On Tuesday, AMC said it supported the agreement to offer films in homes after just 17 days.
Commenting on the agreement, AMC CEO Adam Aron said, "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".
Still, the deal was a surprise as both companies have been at loggerheads after Universal Pictures had forged ahead with early digital releases.
Universal Studios' chair, Donna Langley, said: "The theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business".
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Universal and AMC are discussing distribution plans for Europe and the Middle East, the companies said. "In the meantime we intend to maintain our position of not showing any releases that do not respect the established theatrical window". That's very interesting but probably great for AMC, a company that was on the verge of bankruptcy earlier this year and still faces big hurdles as their theaters remain shuttered due to the pandemic. Studios, meanwhile, have increasingly sought to deliver new movies more quickly into the home.
If movie theaters ever open back up, you still won't have to wait as long for movies to come out on digital, now that AMC Theaters and Universal Pictures have settled a feud with a deal that might just have reshaped the entire film industry distribution model.
Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but AMC will get a share of the premium video-on-demand revenue. Deadline suggests in its report that the 17-day window will be a US experiment, and might not affect the way that Universal movies play out overseas. Universal in April tested the waters by releasing "Trolls World Tour" as an online rental, skipping a scheduled theatrical bow. Shell later declared the "Trolls" experiment a success and said the studio would pursue similar releases for its future movies.
It added: "Going forward, AMC will not license any Universal movies in any of our 1,000 theatres globally on these terms". Exhibitors are now planning on a large-scale reopening by late August, with Warner Bros.' Tenet prepared to usher moviegoers back over the Labor Day weekend, after debuting a week earlier overseas.
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