If you had guessed that AMC Theatres’ ban on Universal films would end long before theaters ever actually reopened in the United States, we have some good news: You were right. Mostly. The ban started way back in April, when NBCUniversal was so tickled by the on-demand success of Trolls World Tour that CEO Jeff Shell declared that future Universal films would continue to premiere on digital platforms even once theaters reopened, giving consumers a choice about whether they wanted to see something for a lot of money at a theater or see something for a lot of money at home. AMC boss Adam Aron disliked this idea so much that he said his theater chain, which has over 1,000 locations around the world, would no longer license any Universal movies ever again. A few days later, both sides were so entrenched in their commitment to either shake things up or maintain the status quo that they refused to back down, setting the stage for a fight that absolutely did not matter and would not matter until theaters reopened post-coronavirus.
However, the fight has now fizzled out, as these things so often do, with both sides reaching a new agreement that should make everyone mostly happy. According to CNN, AMC and Universal have agreed to dramatically reduce the theatrical exclusivity window for Universal movies, meaning they will still premiere in theaters as usual, but they will be available via on-demand much sooner than before. The traditional window is 70 days, but Universal (and other studios under the Universal brand) have now slashed it to just 17 days, giving theaters like AMC just three weekends before a big Universal release slips through their popcorn-coated fingers and into the waiting arms of digital rental platforms. (To be clear, you’ll still have to pay for these movies after 17 days, they won’t be getting dumped on Peacock for free.)
In an abrupt change that is almost funny, Adam Aron—who was so mad at Universal a few months ago—said that AMC “enthusiastically embraces this new industry model,” noting that anything that helps movie studios make a profit will help theaters make a profit as well (at least for a period of 17 days). He also correctly points out that those 17 days are generally when a movie makes most of its money, so he’s probably not missing out on too much here anyway. Is it possible both sides really did settle on a solution that makes everyone happy? Have we entered an exciting new world of peace and harmony? At the risk of being overly optimistic, The A.V. Club says… maybe.