As Bond Vacates 2020, Universal Offers Theaters Short Windows on ‘The Croods’ and ‘Freaky’

Adding to the Friday-afternoon dump of movie delays, Universal announced that “F9,” the latest entry in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, will move from April 2 to May 28, 2021. That means it will no longer compete with James Bond film “No Time to Die,” which, as of October 2, MGM also moved to April 2, 2021.

These shifts leave theaters in a new-product desert. They also put Universal in a strong position to make its first short-window arrangement under the deal it made with AMC Theaters this summer. IndieWire has confirmed that “Freaky” (November 13) and “The Croods: A New Age” (November 25) will go quickly to PVOD: 21 days for “Freaky” (December 4) and 28 days for “The Croods” (December 23). Universal is also offering the titles to other theaters, with the same terms.

AMC, which is struggling under cash shortages and a junk-bond rating, agreed to the studio’s option under their deal: Universal can offer titles to other theaters as early as 17 days into its domestic release. Those terms also include some revenue sharing, as well offering titles on AMC’s streaming site. Given its pole position as the nation’s largest exhibitor, AMC also can provide most of the screens to the potential audience.

“Freaky” from Blumhouse Prods., is a “Happy Death Day” spinoff starring Vince Vaughn. Another low-budget (around $5 million) slasher comedy, it now stands as the next studio release. “The Croods” sequel comes after the still-planned November 20 release of Pixar’s “Soul.”

According to one source, Universal couched the offering by “encouraging” theaters to play day-and-date with PVOD. That velvet glove has a steel hand since there’s little else to play in November. Recent discussions with exhibitors reinforce the resignation that although major chains still want to fight the idea, distributors are now in control.

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