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New movies might come to digital services much earlier than usual
- AMC and Universal have reached a deal shrinking the time movies stay in theaters before they go digital.
- They could stay at cinemas for as little as 17 days.
- This could lead to other studios asking for short theatrical releases.
Many movie theaters are still closed due to the pandemic, but you might not be in as much of a rush to visit them when they reopen — the movies could be (legally) available online sooner than you think.
Universal has struck a deal with theater chain AMC that will shrink the minimum time in US theaters for the studio’s movies to just 17 days, or three weekends, before they can head to “premium video on-demand” platforms. That’s a much shorter window than the industry’s usual 90 days.
The move ends a bitter fight between the two companies over theatrical releases. Universal started the row when the success of Trolls World Tour’s same-day digital release led it to announce plans for more simultaneous online and theatrical releases. AMC retaliated by dropping plans to carry Universal movies at all of its theaters. Clearly, the two have discovered some middle ground.
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It’s not certain what prompted the change of heart, although the extended closures of movie theaters and growing delays for the movies themselves may have played a role. A refusal to show certain movies could be dangerous when AMC may not have a wide selection of titles whenever it’s safe for theaters to reopen.
AMC characterized the deal as a way to foster the movie industry, and theaters in particular. It “enthusiastically” embraced the new approach as it could participate in the “entirety” of the process and boost movie studio profits, theoretically leading to more theatrical releases. The company could directly benefit through its Theaters on Demand service.
The overall time spent waiting for digital movie releases could shrink.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll be watching Universal movies on download services like Google Play and iTunes soon after the theatrical debuts, let alone streaming options like Amazon or Netflix. It could lead to other studios asking for similar concessions from AMC, though, and might prompt deals with other theater chains. If so, the overall time spent waiting for digital movie releases could shrink. You might only need to head to the theater if you insist on a cinematic experience or can’t wait a few weeks to watch at home.