Donna Langley, chair of Universal Filmed Entertainment, said the studio will accommodate a 100-day theatrical release for Christopher Nolan’s next film but that’s an exception not the rule as windows inevitably shorten. Separately, she said she expects fewer “stunting” day-and-date releases on Peacock, but more studio originals directed to the streamer.
“Look, Chris has a precedent at Warner Bros. in the 20 years he was making movies there and he was very clear with, I think, everybody that he spoke with that that was something he was looking to do and so I think that was a sort of point of entry. We are happy to accommodate it, ”Langely said during a Q&A at a conference hosted by The Information. In general however, windows will shorter. “We are training consumers to expect movies earlier.”
“I am obviously thrilled that they made the decision to come with Universal, she said referring to the director’s decision to take his next film (a biographical drama about J. Robert Oppenheimer and his role in the development of the atom bomb) to Universal. Nolan was an outspoken critic of Warner’s decision to make its entire 2021 slate day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max. But Langley said Universal had been setting the groundwork for some time. “It took conversations over a number of years actually with myself and with Jeff Shell when he was with us in the film group. He is a huge fan of Chris’ and he really put the time and the effort there.” Shell is CEO of parent NBCUniversal.
But windows will get shorter, she said, because “it just makes practical sense” since films cycle through their prime theatrical revenue in two to three weeks. “The analysis is there, it’s industry-wide analysis” and streamers were nudging things that way even before Covid.
But the studio is committed to theatrical windows and “working on the assumption that theatrical will be back next year. We may get off to a bit of a slow start, depending on what happens with Covid and during the flu season.”
Asked how Peacock has changed her job, Langley chuckled. “Yeah, I think, look, when a company starts to orient around a new growth initiative, in this case Peacock, of course this impacts every part of the business. Our responsibility is to do what we can to further that initiative and the help drive growth.”
“It’s early days but we anticipate having a really significant role there to the extent that film content will play there, which we imagine that it will. We have done a couple of day-and-date [releases], we are about to put Halloween [Kills] onto the platform and in theaters at the same time. I don’t think we are going to do much stunting like that. I think it’s going to be more about us making originals for [Peacock] going forward.”
Asked how many, she said, “I don’t know yet is the simple answer to that. As you probably read in the news this week they just made a new hire so we are eagerly awaiting some news, hopefully driven by data, that will give us a roadmap of just want they want and when they want it and how much of what we have they want.”
Former Hulu chief Kelly Campbell was named president of Peacock yesterday.
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