Universal, Cinemark Strike Historic Deal Shrinking Theatrical Window for Event Pics to 31 Days

Donna Langley and Mark Zoradi
Kevin Winter/Getty Images;Gabe Ginsberg/WireImage

Universal's Donna Langley; Cinemark's Mark Zoradi

Any Universal film that doesn't open to $50 million or higher will have Cinemark's blessing to make its PVOD debut after 17 days, versus a month.

Universal has struck a history-making deal with Cinemark Entertainment that will dramatically shorten the theatrical window for its films playing at the U.S. box office — including larger event pics and tentpoles — even after the pandemic ends.

Under the terms of the multiyear pact, a Universal movie opening to $50 million or more at the domestic box office can be made available in the home via premium VOD beginning 31 days after it opens on the big screen. (The window doesn't apply to regular on-demand or streaming, and is PVOD only.)

Cinemark, the country's third-largest chain, is OK with all other Universal, DreamWorks Animation and Focus Features movies being made available on PVOD after 17 days, similar to the history-making arrangement Universal struck with AMC Entertainment in late July.

The Cinemark news is significant for several reasons. Not only does it introduce the idea of a 31-day window for tentpoles or event pics, it means that two of the country's three largest movie theater circuits are on board with Universal's push to release movies in the home early and create a new PVOD revenue stream. Universal now has far more leverage. It is also a win for Cinemark and other exhibitors. A 31-day PVOD window for blockbuster fare provides more protection for theater chains than a 17-day window.

The Cinemark arrangement further alters the landscape at a time when circuits are under siege because of COVID-19, with no certainty as to what moviegoing will look like when there's a vaccine.

Terms weren't disclosed, but Cinemark and AMC are expected to share in the PVOD revenue.

“We believe a more dynamic theatrical window, whereby movie theaters continue to provide an event-sized launching platform for films that maximize box office and bolsters the success of subsequent distribution channels, is in the shared best interests of studios, exhibitors and, most importantly, moviegoers," Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said in a statement.

The agreement includes at least three full weekends (17 days) of theatrical exclusivity for all Universal and Focus theatrical releases, at which time the studio will have the option to make its titles available across PVOD. Any title that opens to $50 million or more, including many franchise titles, will play exclusively in theaters for at least five full weekends (31 days).

“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 Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley.

UFEG vice chairman and chief distribution officer Peter Levinsohn played a key role in the deal alongside Langley.

Universal Pictures, Focus Features and DreamWorks Animation have five theatrical releases remaining on the 2020 calendar: The Croods: A New Age (Nov. 25), Half Brothers (Dec. 4), All My Life (Dec. 4), News of the World (Dec. 25) and Promising Young Woman (Dec. 25).