The Hollywood Reporter put out a report on Tuesday under the headline “Cinemark Not Game for AMC-Universal Film Window Deal, CEO Says.” Sounds pretty definitive. Yet is that what CEO Mark Zoradi actuallly said?
Not really. Zoradi has said a lot of things recently. Some of his statements make it seem like he’s decidedly against the recent deal between AMC Theatres and Universal Pictures in which the theater has agreed to reduce Universal’s theatrical window from 90 days to just 17, receiving revenue sharing from the distributor’s premium video on-demand proceeds in return.
He’s on record as saying, “We believe an exclusive theatrical window is critically important,” and “An overly aggressive shortened theatrical window could have an adverse impact on the mid-to-tail end of a film’s life.”
However, Zoradi has also said that he’s actively discussing the topic of shortening the theatrical window with major studios. “I wouldn’t say there’s been any aggressive new discussions that we’re in the middle of. I would characterize it as ongoing,” Zoradi told analysts. “We are open and active with discussions, but relative to negotiations, I would stop there.”
So shortening the exclusive theatrical window is bad … unless it turns out to be good. Got it.
Why all the obfuscation? This isn’t Cold War geopolitics we’re dealing with here. Matter of fact, the entire issue is rather simple. After “Trolls World Tour” made a bajillion dollars via premium video on-demand (at the height of the quarantine, mind you, when parents were willing to empty their checking accounts for whatever it took to entertain their kids for another couple of hours), movie distributors now want the opportunity to release films on-demand either immediately upon release or at the very least well within the traditional 90-day theatrical window. Movie theaters either want to protect the theatrical window or get a sizable chunk of that on-demand revenue.
Bear in mind that Zoradi–i.e. Cinemark, the nation’s third largest exhibitor–is actively negotiating the matter with major studios instead of going to war with Universal and outright banning their films from Cinemark’s circuit. That fact alone already tells us everything we need to know.
Reducing the theatrical window in return for shared on-demand proceeds MIGHT benefit both AMC and Universal. If it does, every other exhibitor and distributor will jump on the bandwagon, including Cinemark. If it doesn’t, any such deals will either lapse or not be made in the first place. The only question that remains is once the 90-day theatrical window is officially broken, and if this experiment indeed goes terribly wrong, can the shards of the 90-day theatrical window ever be put back together again? Only time will tell.