Following a hostile and extremely public back-and-forth, AMC Theaters and Universal have struck a multi-year deal to shrink the theatrical-exclusivity window for Universal's films. Under the new agreement, when Universal releases return to theaters, they will be able to premiere on streaming and video-on-demand only 17 days later after premiering theatrically, a sharp drop from the traditional 90-day window.

The pact only applies to AMC locations in the U.S. for the time being and also only applies to one of the major Hollywood studios. It is unclear if other studios will pursue the same deal. Crucially, AMC is also expected to receive a cut of Universal premium VOD revenue. 

“The theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business,” Universal chair Donna Langley said in a statement. “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.”

Universal has dabbled the most out of any studio in PVOD premieres for its 2020 releases in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic shuttering movie theaters. The studio was the first to premiere a major release on digital marketplaces with the April release of “Trolls World Tour,” which went on to make over $100 million in rentals. This success led Universal to publicly state that digital releases would continue to be a major part of their business.

Following this statement, AMC CEO Adam Aron gave a harsh response, stating that his company would refuse to exhibit future Universal releases in retaliation for their embrace of straight-to-streaming releases.

“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,” Aron said, in a sharp reversal of his former stance.

PVOD releases during the pandemic have generally cost $15-20 for a 48-hour rental. Some smaller films have gone as low as $7-10 for 30-day rentals. Universal also released “The High Note,” “The King of Staten Island,” “Irresistible,” and “You Should Have Left” on PVOD platforms over the summer.

Trolls World Tour "Trolls World Tour" features Anna Kendrick as the voice of a pink troll named Poppy. Photo: Dreamworks/Universal Pictures