By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Cinemark Holdings Inc <CNK.N> has reached a deal that will allow Comcast Corp’s <CMCSA.O> Universal Pictures to offer its films in U.S. homes as soon as 17 days after they debut in theaters, the companies said on Monday.
The multi-year agreement is similar to one that Universal made earlier this year with AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc <AMC.N>, the world’s largest theater chain, embracing a major shift from traditional movie release patterns.
Under the new agreement, Universal could offer movies for sale via premium video-on-demand after they have played for at least three weekends in theaters, a statement from the companies said. That would shrink the exclusive window a movie plays in cinemas to as short as 17 days rather than the roughly 90 days that has been common practice.
Movies that open with more than $50 million at box offices would be exclusive to theaters for at least five weekends, or 31 days, before they could be offered on demand. That would likely include Universal’s big franchises such as “Fast & Furious” and “Jurassic World.”
Few new movies are currently playing in theaters, with many cinemas closed to help curb the global coronavirus pandemic. Major chains have borrowed money or taken other steps to stay afloat, and smaller operators have appealed to the U.S. government for help until the crisis subsides.
Theaters had long resisted moves to shorten the window of time they can play a movie exclusively, and threatened to refuse to show films if they were released too quickly on-demand. That changed in July, when AMC reached the deal with Universal to allow premium video-on-demand after three weekends. AMC will receive an undisclosed portion of the on-demand sales.
It is unclear if Cinemark also will earn a percentage of Universal’s on-demand revenue. Financial terms of their arrangement were not disclosed.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)