While the No. 1 exhibitor AMC has traditionally been flexible about theatrical windows despite their pubic uproar against Universal last year, the chain’s CEO Adam Aron speculated today what the landscape would look like when we come out of this pandemic.
“What we learned from the Universal agreement, is that every studio seems to have different desires and needs. I’m expecting there will be custom agreements that will be developed studio by studio, and differ circuit by circuit,” said Aron speaking to how the majors are varying their distribution patterns for movies.
Aron’s comments come in the wake of Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s remarks on March 1 at a Morgan Stanley conference where he exclaimed “I’m not sure there’s going back” in regards to the way movies were released. Chapek did cover his bases by also saying, “But we certainly don’t want to do anything like cut the legs off a theatrical exhibition run.”
One simply just needs to look around to see an example of what Aron is talking about: This past weekend, Disney had the theatrical day-and-date Disney+ PVOD release of Raya and the Last Dragon (which entailed charging the streamer’s subs $30). AMC was able to make a deal with Disney to play the film, but No. 3 chain Cinemark, Harkins and Cineplex could not. Warners is playing its theatrical 2021 slate day and date for free to its HBO Max subs during a pic’s first 31 days, while Universal has a 17-day theatrical window before taking a title into the homes on PVOD.
Continued Aron, “Over the past several years, AMC has indicated in private conversations with every major studio that we’re willing to be the most experimental movie theater circuit around in respect to windows strategies that were different than the traditional norm.” That’s true: AMC was the only major circuit to play Paramount’s 2015 movies Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension in a truncated experimental window which gave the chain a share of the pic’s early PVOD revenues.
“But we always laid down one marker: If we adjusted windows, it had to be good for AMC shareholders, not bad for AMC shareholders,” explained Aron, “And where we couldn’t strike deals with studios on shorter windows, we resisted them with all of our might.”
Overall, in regards to the whole shrinking window trend, Aron beamed during the top of the call’s Q&A session, “This is an area where I feel really good.”
Aron remained bullish on the box office returning back to pre-pandemic levels and cited NRG research on the increase in moviegoers’ confidence to return.
Aron also gave a shoutout to his chain’s own internal “scientific” poll among its Stubs members. In a survey of 2,4K polled, the response was that moviegoing was the No. 1 most singular activity people are looking forward to out of 15 possible activities post pandemic. Moviegoing remained 43% more popular than going over to a friend’s house, 47% more popular than eating at a restaurant, 79% more than attending a concert, 138% more than a sporting event, and 257% more popular than going shopping.