Cineworld agrees UK PVOD window with Disney and Universal
James R | On 14, May 2021
With cinemas opening their doors again from next week, a growing number of exhibitors are shaping the future of the film industry with new deals to agree shorter theatrical windows before titles can be released digitally.
The past year has seen a number of high-profile movies go straight to digital platforms while cinemas have been closed during the coronavirus pandemic, with Premium VOD rentals given to such titles as Trolls World Tour, Scoob!, Judas and the Black Messiah and The Little Things.
In the UK, 1.1 million viewers rented a PVOD title between March 2020 and the end of the year. These rentals (all priced above £10) accounted for 6 per cent of all digital rentals in that period and 20 per cent of total rental spend by audiences.
In the USA, deals have been inked by AMC and Cinemark with Universal and by Regal theatres with Warner Bros. In the UK, Cineworld (which owns Regal) has taken similar steps to shorten the typical window of cinema exclusivity, which was traditionally about 12 to 16 weeks.
In March, Cineworld agreed a 31-day window with Warner Bros before any PVOD release – although that window can extend to 45 days if a film meets an unpublished box office threshold.
Now, it’s inked a similar deal with Universal that will also give the studio’s films a window of 31 days before any PVOD release in the UK – and, again, an extended 45-day window for films that open to an agreed-upon box office threshold.
Cineworld has also reached a deal with Disney, which means it will play the House of Mouse’s titles in its UK cinemas, despite Disney’s plans to release some titles – including Cruella, Black Widow and Jungle Cruise – on the same day on Disney+, with an additional Premier Access fee.
Disney, however, has indicated that it will maintain a 45-day theatrical window for some of its upcoming films, such as 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy, starring Ryan Reynolds, and Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Expect similar deals between Cineworld and Sony and Paramount to follow shortly, as well as similar announcements and terms for Odeon. For now, though, a shorter theatrical window of 30 to 45 days appears to be the new normal before a digital release for most major studio films.
Struggling to keep up-to-date with UK film releases in 2021? See our guide to the big new movies coming soon to VOD.