Universal and AMC put aside bad blood to sign a multi-year deal that will allow the studio’s films to premiere on premium video on-demand within three weeks of their theatrical debuts.
Like Cineworld, before it, the move has bemused Vue, which accounts for 2,000 screens in 10 major international markets, including UK, Germany, Italy, Poland and Taiwan.
“The move doesn’t make sense to me,” Vue CEO Tim Richards told us. “From speaking to many partners in the global exhibition community in recent days I would say this is an absolute outlier and there has been surprise and frustration that there wasn’t an opportunity to discuss the move. We see the deal as being as bad for the studios as it is for exhibition”.
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Richards acknowledged that the move for now is a domestic play, and he is awaiting detail of how it may impact international. But it’s a play that will likely have ripple effects.
He continued: “This is not an industry that needs fixing so I’m not sure why you would roll the dice like this. I don’t think they will get a lot of support from other studios. We broke records for box office last year by making $42BN. We had the biggest movie of all time as well as the biggest R-Rated movie ever. Why would you mess with that?”
Speculating on why the timing made sense now, Richards claimed: “AMC lost a lot of its value entering the pandemic. They had to do something because they are a troubled company. This doesn’t reflect where the rest of the global industry wants to go.”
However, Richards acknowledged that the pandemic has taken a significant toll on the sector.
“It has been a very challenging time. We have been fighting for the survival of the company. Now that we can see the number of strong movies slated for the fall we are confident that people will come back. I think the pre-covid box office numbers will return soon but movies will play differently. They will probably play longer and people will view them at non-traditional times, so perhaps more afternoon weekday screenings compared to packed Saturday evening screenings.”
Warner Bros’ Tenet is regarded as a key factor in getting people back into cinemas and the studio is planning to launch the film next month in international markets first. Richards told us he is confident the movie won’t be delayed again.
“Warner Bros deserve a huge amount of credit for the leadership role they have assumed. They recognized that a global day-and-date release was going to be very challenging. Our hope is that other studios will see the same benefit. Until there is a vaccine there won’t be a perfect moment for global day-and-date releases. Coronavirus flare-ups will be part of life for the foreseeable future and it shouldn’t mean we stop life. We are having those conversations with the studios.”
The Vue chief said that today’s announcement by the UK government that masks will be mandated in cinemas “won’t present an issue operationally.” The company is opening its doors in the UK from August 7 with a number of coronavirus protocols in place.
“We’re going to be 80-90% open in the next few weeks. We are seeing encouraging numbers already in our overseas markets where we have been screening classic movies,” he noted.
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