Universal will sell digital movies just weeks after their theatrical debut


Some analysts think Apple should snap up a movie studio. Bad idea!
Or you could watch them from the comfort of your own home.
Photo: Naoya Fujii/Flickr CC

A new deal means that movie fans won’t be waiting as long to see Universal Pictures movies pop up for sale on iTunes and other digital platforms after their theatrical debut.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, an agreement between theater chain AMC Entertainment and Universal means that the theatrical exclusivity window will be cut from 75 days to just 17 days. This means certain titles will be available after just 2.5 weeks after they first arrived in theaters.

The changing world of COVID-19

The news report notes that this announcement could put pressure on other movie studios to follow suit. The agreement follows the decision to debut Trolls World Tour as a $20 online rental earlier this year. It debuted digitally one day after its scheduled theatrical debut, and reportedly made $50 million its opening weekend.

Like every other planned theatrical movie in 2020, Trolls World Tour was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The success of launching it on a digital platform is making movie companies rethink their options.

The WSJ report notes that:

“Even though movies traditionally generate the bulk of their box-office revenue in the first few weeks of playing in theaters, exhibitors have staunchly defended their exclusive windows, fearing that if films are made available online prematurely, customers would have little incentive to see new movies in theaters. The tension dates back at least to the DVD era.”

Universal movies on iTunes

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about a deal such as this. Back in 2017, Bloomberg reported that Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. were in talks with the likes of Apple and Comcast to push for digital sales and rentals just a couple of weeks after movies’ theatrical debut. It seemingly took a few years extra, but that now appears to be coming true. Well, at least for Universal. Now it will be interesting to watch how other studios respond.


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