An AMC movie theater, April 27, 2020. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage/File Photo

Film fans who prefer watching on-demand rather than at the cineplex got some good news Tuesday.

Universal Pictures and AMC Theatres announced a historic deal that will result in home audiences getting much faster access to major films.

Under the agreement, Universal’s movies will be available to video-on-demand platforms after screening for just 17 days in AMC theaters in the U.S. The theater chain will share in the revenue generated by the on-demand business.

The deal comes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, when film fans, many of whom had already been shifting to home viewership, were forced to rely on online and on-demand platforms even more.

“The theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business. The partnership we’ve forged with AMC is driven by our collective desire to ensure a thriving future for the film distribution ecosystem and to meet consumer demand with flexibility and optionality,” said Donna Langley, chair of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group.

Executives of both Universal and AMC – the nation’s largest theater chain – said the deal represents a new model for the industry, one that will provide greater flexibility.

“AMC enthusiastically embraces this new industry model both because we are participating in the entirety of the economics of the new structure, and because premium video on demand creates the added potential for increased movie studio profitability, which should in turn lead to the green-lighting of more theatrical movies,” AMC CEO Adam Aron said.

“This multi-year agreement preserves exclusivity for theatrical viewing for at least the first three weekends of a film’s release, during which time a considerable majority of a movie’s theatrical box office revenue typically is generated … So, in total, Universal and AMC each believe this will expand the market and benefit us all.”

AMC has locations throughout San Diego County, including Mission Valley, La Jolla, Chula Vista, National City and Poway.

Previously, the major studios have showed new releases exclusively in theaters for about three months before making them available for home viewing, but the Universal-AMC deal could have wide-ranging effects on that model.

The agreement also applies to releases from Universal’s Focus Features.

The full terms of the deal are not being disclosed. Although Tuesday’s announcement only applies to U.S. distribution, the two companies said they will begin discussions surrounding international distribution agreements in the coming weeks.

The agreement represents a 180-degree reversal of the companies’ earlier positions. Aron once threatened to boycott all Universal films after the studio said it would make “Trolls World Tour” available in any cinemas that were open and on VOD.

The studio released the film in April, when fewer theaters were open due to the pandemic.

– City News Service

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