The Universal AMC Deal Could Change Moviegoing

So perhaps one of the best ways to consider the fallout from this deal is to look at how it might immediately impact Universal Pictures’ next film, Candyman. The Nia DaCosta written and directed movie, which features Jordan Peele as another credited screenwriter and producer, is one of the last remaining Universal releases slated for 2020 due to COVID-influenced delays. While Universal previously delayed the movie from its original June date, it has almost defiantly kept DaCosta’s reboot of the ‘90s cult classic on its current release date of Oct. 16. (Universal’s Halloween Kills previously held that weekend before delaying to October 2021.)

A week ago another Candyman delay, or even a shift to VOD a la Universal’s The King of Staten Island, looked imminent. Now Candyman potentially having a theatrical bow for 17 days in October appears reasonable given the dire climate facing studios and especially theater owners. Admittedly, much still depends on how severely COVID-19 infection rates spike in the U.S. over the next several months, but if Warner Brothers’ aggressively optimistic Tenet strategy plays out in September, with a global release in European and Asian markets beginning at the end of August and a limited rollout in “select U.S. cities” in September, it could potentially light a way for WB to release Wonder Woman 1984 on its currently slated Oct. 2 release date, just as it gives cover to Disney for keeping its legacy films from the studio formerly known as Fox on the calendar this fall, including The New Mutants and The King’s Man.

If those work out, it gives precedence to Candyman staying the course in October. Yet even if WB decides to delay Wonder Woman 1984 to hopefully safer harbor in 2021, Universal and AMC have created a way to find profits in October from Candyman without completely spurning movie theaters. If Wonder Woman is delayed, Candyman could move to Oct. 2 and have a 17-day run before going to PVOD in time for Halloween. But perhaps more intriguingly, Candyman could play in “select U.S. cities”—which likely includes any state that refuses to close public places like bars and indoor restaurants—for 17 days beginning on Oct. 16. It would then play for three weekends, including Halloween weekend, with the quasi-holiday falling on a Saturday this year.

That means when demand is at its absolute highest for new horror movies among movie lovers, Candyman will be the only game in town, exclusively at movie theaters. For the type of cinephile who feels compelled to go to movie theaters in states where they’re open, like the parishioner who demands to crowd a church pew, Candyman will be the only option… and only in theaters, much to the relief of owners beyond just AMC.

For other potential moviegoers willing to wait until Nov. 2—still a time of high-demand in a pandemic—Candyman will soon be here, just a little after the traditional spooky season. This allows theater owners to profit off the film at its highest seasonal demand, and then in the case of AMC, to continue profiting off it should Universal likely choose to move it to VOD after that third weekend.

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