Two major theater chains – AMC and Canada’s Cineplex – have agreed to a two-week release window on a pair of upcoming Paramount Pictures films, putting a major crack in the standard 90-day theatrical window. A pair of small-budget films from the studio will be available to consumers 17 days after they finish their theatrical run.
The deal may not shatter the industry’s standard three-month wait after a film begins its run, but it goes a long way toward satisfying studios’ concerns that the window was too long and that it creates an environment ripe for piracy.
"Exhibition for the first time was open-minded about evolving our business instead of sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring what is happening around us," Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount, told The Hollywood Reporter. "Instead of starting the (theatrical window) countdown from when a movie opens, we are starting from when it ends."
Paramount is planning to approach other theater chains with the deal for the movies -- Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (Oct. 23) and Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (Oct. 30); Variety reported that another chain could today announce it, too, will follow suit. Regardless of whether Paramount manages to expand the release, it's a good bet other studios will look to work their own deals.
Tough times for theater chains
Movie theaters have been through some rough times in recent years, Attendance hit a two-decade low in 2014, and box office revenues dropped 5% from 2013 even as movie tickets climbed to a record high in the United States. The shorter window could cut into theater ticket revenue further.
So, what’s in it for Cineplex, which is Canada's biggest theater group, and AMC, the second-largest theater chain in the U.S.?
Paramount is looking to make the pill a little easier to swallow, offering the theaters a cut of the revenue brought in through iTunes, and other digital channels. And, the countdown on the 17-day window doesn't start until the number of screens the films are being shown on drops below 300, a good sign the run is pretty much kaput.
A limited experiment – for now
Don’t count on Paramount making its expected tent poles – like Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (July 31) – to follow the same deal as the two smaller films… at least not this time around.
Bigger films generally stay in theaters for up to two months, at most, making the shorter release window moot. To a point.
But, depending on how Ghost and Scout perform, deals on more films are likely to be cut.
The consumer wants it, studios need it, and theater chains need to look to evolve their very-outdated business model.
“Consumers know theatrical movies from their 'gotta see it now' exclusive releases in theaters, but every movie is different, and a one-size-fits-all business model has never made sense,” Gerry Lopez, AMC CEO told THR. “This model aligns the interests of consumers, filmmakers and exhibitors to maximize the theatrical experience first and then enable legitimate digital access.”
Fire up that popcorn… the home theater just got a little better!
Follow me on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn