Universal Pictures has struck another deal with a major theater chain to shorten the theatrical window from three months to as little as 17 days in an effort to adapt to the new business realities of moviegoing.
Universal and Cinemark announced Monday a multiyear agreement that guarantees three full weekends, or 17 days, of theatrical exclusivity for Universal and Focus Feature titles before a film can become available to rent on demand. Films that open to $50 million or more, however, will stay in theaters exclusively for at least five full weekends, or 31 days.
The Hollywood studio behind the “Fast & Furious” and “Jurassic World” franchises is the only major player to reach this kind of agreement with major exhibitors, who have until now clung to the standard 90-day theatrical window, but it is likely not the last.
Earlier this summer, Universal made a similar agreement with the nation’s largest chain, AMC Theaters.
“Universal’s century-long partnership with exhibition is rooted in the theatrical experience, and we are more committed than ever for audiences to experience our movies on the big screen,” said Donna Langley, the chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, in a statement.
Although specific terms were not disclosed for either, there is an element of profit sharing in the premium video on demand rentals between the studio and the exhibitors.
“We have been talking to multiple studios about doing a version of dynamic windowing for quite some time, even going back pre-COVID,” said Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi. “With COVID and the reduced amount of content, it just made sense to accelerate this.”
Zoradi said that Universal was forward-thinking in coming to this “mutually beneficial agreement” and wouldn’t be surprised if more studios follow suit.
The flexibility to ensure that blockbusters would have a longer exclusive run in theaters was key for the company. Each movie will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis as to when it becomes available on demand. Once they are, most will continue playing in theaters simultaneously.
Universal and Focus still have a number of films on the release calendar for the rest of the year including the animated “The Croods: A New Age,” out Nov. 25, as well as the Tom Hanks film “News of the World” and “Promising Young Woman,” both out on Christmas.
Cinemark, which operates brands like Century, Tinseltown and Rave, operates some 332 theaters in the U.S. and 202 internationally. Around 90% of its U.S. theaters are currently open in accordance with local regulations.