As crappy as coronavirus undoubtedly is, the new world it's creating has actually fixed some vexing problems we've had for a while. Like the lack of flexibility with working from home, and now, the fact that you can't watch a new film at home for absolutely yonks after it comes out.
Prior to now, films had to be in cinemas for between 70 and 90 days – i.e. up to three months – before they were allowed to be made available for home streaming. In many ways, that seems daft, because lots of people would be willing to pay the price of a cinema ticket for a brand new film in their own home, but wouldn't go out to see one, and it seemed like the cinemas were pretty much leaving that money on the table at a time when they desperately need it.
Now, AMC Theatres and Universal have reached a deal that cuts the mandated cinema-only time down to just 17 days – that's only just over two weeks. It includes three weekends, which is why it's a bit of a random number.
After that, they'll be available as premium home rentals, costing about $20 (£15ish). No, they're not nearly as cheap as regular rentals, but that's the price you pay for seeing something so soon after release. Seems fair to us, and Universal says AMC will get a cut of the higher-priced rentals, helping to cross-subsidise physical cinemas. Which can only be a good thing.
After the usual 90 days, the films will be allowed to stream for the lower prices we already pay for older stuff (£2-5ish).
According to The Verge, one of the films that catalysed the change is – somewhat surprisingly – Trolls World Tour, because it had to go straight to streaming services when 'rona shut the cinemas, and evidently it all turned out fine.
Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group (UEFG) comments:
"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."
Not sure optionality is a word, but we get the meaning. [Update: 'optionality' is indeed a word. We disapprove.]
Obviously, the new deal only applies to films made by Universal (although that's a heck of a lot, the name is quite accurate) and shown in AMC cinemas. But now this kind of deal finally exists, we doubt it'll be long before everyone's on it. Thanks, covid. [The Verge]