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Universal Strikes Historic Deal to Shorten Theatrical Window to 17days

Nearly one year into the pandemic, we are seeing some unprecedented change in the theatrical window - an end to a long standing industry practice.

Amid growing concerns around the movie business, Hollywood, however, finds its way to accelerate the process of digitization and potentially reordering this decades-long theatrical-release tradition in the film industry.

(Source: Warner Bros, left; and Disney, right)

Almost one year into the pandemic, the Walt Disney Co. experimented with the $200million “Mulan” as a premium buy on its newly launched streaming service, Disney+, back in September. WarnerMedia also moved its big-budget blockbuster "Wonder Woman 1984" to its OTT, HBO Max. In the meantime, Universal aggressively forayed into video-on-demand and struck groundbreaking deals with AMC and Cinemark to dramatically shorten the traditional theatrical window, from Hollywood’s typical 90 days to just 17 days. After signing deals with the largest and 3rd largest movie chains, there’s even widespread acknowledgement that the days of 90-day theatrical runs are over.

With new agreement, this shorter time frame would allow Universal to address the potential on-demand audience staying home, while continuing releasing films in theaters. Following the AMC Theatres agreement, Universal turned to Cinemark. According to Variety, this new deal has established that any movie that earns more than $50 million in opening weekend must stay playing in theaters for at least five weekends before the film may be released on digital platforms. Titles that do not reach this benchmark, though, can be made available on digital platforms after just 17 days.

(Source: Variety)

For the near future, we can’t really picture ourselves as moviegoers to once again sitting in packed theaters on opening weekend. And technically for a family of three, paying $30 to rent a movie at home is a much better value proposition than spending over $50 on a trip to the local cinema. In that aspect, certainly the months-long runs of films are a thing of the past. However for movies like 'Jurassic World' and 'Get out', theaters are still the go-to-place to fully experience and engage. Plus, many movie-going audiences still value the magic of a theatrical and communal film-going experience.

With all the above, among many Studio-based streamers, Universal has been quick to adapt to pandemic’s impact on the industry, they guarantee that not only movies will have certain time in theaters but also at your comfy living room.

In the blink of an eye, 2020 is coming to an end, typically Thanks-giving season is usually the most lucrative period for theaters and it’s hard to believe that this year can be very different and difficult. How different 2021 and beyond will be remains unclear considering the virus is mutating rapidly. However, some things may never change - our love for arts. As the old saying goes "innovate or die," hopefully theaters will continue to innovate itself to offer unique experience.