Cinemark Allowing Shortened Theatrical Windows For Movies On A Case-By-Case Basis Starting This Month

Movie theaters are still having a tough time right now, so some of the major chains are doing whatever they can in order to better their financial situation. AMC Theatres got some help from a deal they struck with Universal that not only shortened the theatrical window to 17 days but gave theaters some of the VOD revenue when the movie was available to rent digitally at home. Now, it seems Cinemark is the latest chain looking to allow shortened theatrical windows during this unprecedented situation.

Deadline reports Cinemark is beginning to take a "dynamic" approach to the current exhibition environment by negotiating terms for a shortened theatrical window on a case-by-case basis. Starting this month, Cinemark is willing to play movies that will only be in theaters for a few weeks before they are sent to VOD. As of now, this is only happening with upcoming Universal Pictures movies such as the horror comedy Freaky, the Kevin Costner-led thriller Let Him Go, and the animated sequel The Croods 2.

Though Cinemark will allow these movies to play for a short time before the studio takes them to VOD, Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said that this doesn't change the core of how they're approaching theatrical distribution. In fact, discussions like this were apparently being had with studios before the coronavirus pandemic forced theaters to shut down earlier this year. Cinemark CFO and COO Sean Gamble said, "This isn't new," but based on how things are going with movie theaters, he added, "Clearly, we're factoring in the current environment."

The Croods 2 is the biggest movie that Cinemark will be playing this month that won't be exclusive to theaters for very long. Universal is sending it to theaters starting on November 25, but it's expected to arrive on VOD before Christmas. Freaky will be adopting a similar strategy with a theatrical release on November 13 followed by a VOD release on December 4. These details were revealed by IndieWire back at the beginning of October, but at the time, it was merely a general offer to theaters from Universal, and now Cinemark feels they need to accept it with few other options to bring in revenue.

Since Cinemark just reported third quarter earnings totaling a pitiful $35 million (compared to $821 million last year), they're desperate to get their hands on as much revenue as they can. They're currently operating with a loss of $148 million, taking them in to the red and putting them in danger. Their private watch parties where audiences can rent a theater to themselves for up to 20 people have helped, with customers ordering over 50,000 of them since the offer began. But it's still not enough.

The continued closure of theaters in Los Angeles in New York is hurting Cinemark, even though they have 90% of their locations open now. Those markets are just huge when it comes to box office. But apparently there might be some movement soon where theaters will be allowed to reopen in those cities after lobbying by movie theater chains and the National Association of Theatre Owners. Opening those locations may help a bit, but with very few major theatrical releases, it will likely be like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.