It Only Took A Massive Pandemic For Hollywood To Ease Off Stupid, Dated Movie Release Windows
from the forced-evolution dept
Among the dated and dumb business concepts exposed as folly during the pandemic is the traditional Hollywood film release window, which typically involves a 90 day gap between the time a move appears in theaters and its streaming or DVD release (in France this window is even more ridiculous at three years). The goal is usually to “protect the traditional film industry,” though it’s never been entirely clear why you’d protect traditional theaters at the cost of common sense, consumer demand, and a more efficient model. Just because?
While the industry has flirted with the idea of “day and date” releases for decades (releasing movies on home video at the same time as brick and mortar theaters), there’s long been a lot of hyperventilation on the part of movie theaters and traditionalists that this sort of shift wasn’t technically possible or would somehow destroy the traditional “movie experience,” driving theaters out of business.
The pandemic has changed everything. To the point where AMC Theaters and Universal have struck a pact to shorten the traditional release window, allowing movies to appear on demand just 17 days after they appear in theaters:
“In a stunning reversal, AMC Theatres has struck a historic agreement with Universal that will allow the studio’s movies to be made available on premium video-on-demand after just 17 days of play in cinemas, including three weekends, the two companies announced Tuesday.
The deal ? which presently only covers AMC’s U.S. locations ? shatters the traditional theatrical window, a longstanding policy that has required studios to play their films on the big screen for nearly three months before making films available in the home.”
The move comes in part because Comcast NBC Universal has been having great success in pushing blockbuster films straight to on demand and streaming in the wake of the pandemic. This initially resulted in AMC Theaters pouting like a spoiled child, with AMC Theatres chair-CEO Adam Aron issuing a rather toddler-esque missive proclaiming that the theater chain would never again carry a Comcast NBC Universal film:
“It is disappointing to us, but Jeff?s comments as to Universal?s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice. Therefore, effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters in the United States, Europe or the Middle East.”
It’s understandable that the traditional theater sector is worried, especially given the number of employees that are struggling right now. That said, Aron’s comments were one of the more embarrassing “I’m taking my ball and going home” moments in modern history. And as it became clear that the pandemic would be sticking around for a while, it also apparently became clear to AMC executives that (1) pouting isn’t really a business strategy, and (2) they had no power to blacklist Comcast/NBC Universal because nobody wants to risk their life by going to the theater right now.
That said, 17 days is still kind of silly, and AMC had to be paid a cut of proceeds to acknowledge reality and the future. Still, baby steps and all that.