Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger said today that the No. 2 global exhibitor is “actively negotiating terms and structures of evolving theatrical windows with our studio partners.” He made the comment on an earnings call after Cineworld reported 2020 results which included its first-ever annual operating loss ($2.26B) as the industry has been greatly impacted by the Covid pandemic.
Earlier this week, we reported that Cineworld had reached a multi-year agreement with Warner Bros which will see it show WB’s 2021 theatrical and HBO Max day-and-date titles at Cineworld’s Regal chain in the U.S. as of their theatrical release. Then, beginning in 2022, Warner committed to a 45-day theatrical-only window with Regal. Regal begins reopening in the U.S. starting April 2. Cineworld’s UK sites, under current government guidelines resume operations on May 17 (the date could come earlier, Greidinger said).
Greidinger today called the Warner deal “a very important step forward” and said that “the dialogue is good” with other studios. He noted Cineworld is talking to Universal, “We don’t have a deal yet, but that doesn’t mean we are not showing their movies.” Universal in 2020 set shortened 17- and 31-day window deals with AMC and Cinemark in the U.S. before films can go to PVOD. For the time being, Greidinger told Deadline, “We’re talking to them and we’ll see. We need to find a financial solution with them.”
As regards Disney and its decision to move Cruella and Black Widow to a day-and-date theatrical/Disney+ Premier Access plan, which was seen as a slap in the face to exhibition partners as Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro reported, Greidinger told Deadline, “We are analyzing the news, we need to hear from Disney what their offer is and we will talk to them.”
Overall, Greidinger said, “We trust and believe at end of the day that theatrical exclusivity is of interest to all sides — exhibition, studios, moviemakers. Once the dust will settle a bit, there will also be much more stability in the windows issue.”
The CEO pointed to the box office coming out of such robust markets as China and Japan and said, “It shows people missed the cinema, people want to go back, they want to go out.” He added, “As long as theatrical exclusivity is kept in a way, we are going to do well and people will still run to movies in the cinemas. For studios, it’s clear the more a movie is successful in the cinemas the more successful and popular it is in the auxiliary markets, merchandising and parks, etc.”
Greidinger said the reaction to this week’s news that Regal is reopening in April has been encouraging and that moviegoers have been “very enthusiastic.” Upon reopening, Cineworld will relaunch its Unlimited membership program in the U.S., UK and Poland. Uptake in the U.S., he said, had been climbing pre-closures.
The company is also looking forward to providing improved experiences at its Irvine Spectrum cinema in California which was open for a short time last year and saw “amazing reactions” from moviegoers. There are further updated cinemas in Tennessee and New York’s Union Square as well as a new project in Houston that Greidinger believes will become one of the top cinemas in the industry.
He concluded the earnings call, “When we say our strategy is to be the best place to watch a movie, we mean that.”