Editor’s take: It’s hard to say which side is taking the bigger risk here. With the pandemic seemingly far from being wiped out, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the next several months will look like. If theaters close down once again due to health concerns, will Universal still be bound by its agreement with AMC? Are studios going to wait around for theaters to reopen or push distribution partners to go with premium on demand instead? What will the future of movie theaters look like in the long term? Are people going to be willing to sit arm-to-arm with a room full of strangers again once we are clear of this whole thing?
It seems that cooler heads have prevailed in the dispute between AMC Theatres and Universal.
Back in April as theaters across the country and around the globe were shut down in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19, Universal elected to sidestep the traditional theatrical release model and distribute new pictures through premium video on demand.
This move infuriated AMC, prompting the company to ban Universal films from screening in their theaters in the US, Europe and the Middle East.
It remained that way for the past few months, largely without incident, considering theaters were shut down due to the pandemic. But with theater operators gearing up to reopen their doors, AMC went back to the negotiating table and hammered out a new deal with Universal.
Per the multi-year agreement, AMC will get at least three weekends (17 days) of theatrical exclusivity for all Universal Pictures and Focus Features releases. After that, the studio can launch films across premium video on demand platforms.
Notably, the deal only applies to theaters in the US. AMC said an international distribution agreement will be discussed in the coming weeks.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.