Cineplex agrees to reduce theatrical window to 17 days for Universal films

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Cineplex Inc. has reached an agreement with Hollywood film studio Universal to reduce the exclusive theatrical release window for its films to 17 days.The multi-year agreement means that Canada’s largest film operator guaranteed theatrical exclusivity for three weekends on films released by Universal Pictures before the studio could choose to make them available at home on the platforms of digital rentals.

The move comes as theaters face intense pressure from movie studios to agree to looser restrictions on how long movies are played in theaters. The factor was only compounded by a sharp drop in the number of moviegoers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the terms of the Universal deal, films that exceed $ 50 million at the North American box office on the opening weekend will play exclusively for 31 days, or five weekends, before Universal can. choose to send them as a bonus on demand, which is priced at $ 19.99 or more.

But movies that don’t meet that threshold could be shown in Cineplex theaters for a much shorter period.

Shorter windows increasingly common

Cineplex has its own digital rental service, Cineplex Store, which would get a share of the revenue from each rental.

Financial details of the partnership, which includes Universal Focus Features’ premium films division, were not disclosed.

Earlier this year, Universal struck a similar deal with AMC Theaters in the United States, sparking a fallout in the industry as other chains faced pressure to follow along at the same time. Cinemark, another U.S. channel, signed a shorter window deal earlier this week.

Cineplex has refused for years to move on a strict 90-day theatrical window, saying it will only show films that pledge to meet the three-month exclusivity period.

There have been a few exceptions, the most publicized being a 2015 experiment with Paramount Pictures that saw low budget horror films. Paranormal activity: the phantom dimension and Zombie Apocalypse Scouts Guide play for a shortened window based in part on their box office performance.

The lawsuit collapsed almost as quickly as it started when both films underperformed their box office screenings.

At the time, Cineplex President and CEO Ellis Jacob said the shorter windows test was for “niche movies,” and he didn’t expect it to expand to blockbuster movies. But the new deal with Universal covers both big releases and small movies.

The studio is home to some of the film industry’s most valuable franchises, including The fast and the furious, jurassic park and Minions, and entered into a distribution pact with horror brand Blumhouse, creator of Get out.

This time around, the Cineplex chef said he’s convinced Canadians always enjoy the theater experience.

“We are delighted to be working alongside like-minded partners, such as Universal, a studio that respects the theatrical showcase and is committed to the long-term sustainable health of the theatrical ecosystem,” he said. in a press release.

Streaming movies in cinemas

For years, Cineplex refused to support films from most streaming companies, including Netflix, because they refused to commit to its 90-day window.

Some of these rejected Netflix movies including Irish and Uncut gems, has been successfully shown in independent theaters across Canada, providing small businesses with a rare opportunity to screen first-run titles with big-name stars.

The partnership between Cineplex and Universal could change that. If the big movie chain agrees to welcome Netflix and other streaming companies to its multiplexes, independent theaters could lose access to some of their biggest runs.

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