Despite Movie Theater Shutdowns, Exclusive 3-Month Deals Haven't Changed, Trade Group Says

New, widespread theatrical film release changes -- in the wake of movie theater business shut down due to COVID-19 and growing streaming TV usage -- have not occurred, according to the U.S. movie theater trade association the National Association of Theater Owners.

John Fithian, president/chief executive officer of the National Association of Theater Owners, said on CNBC that movie theaters are not in danger of losing their legacy, 90-day exclusive window they get from movie studios for new theatrical movies.

He notes that just one movie -- DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls World Tour” -- will be released in April by NBCUniversal on streaming TV platforms before running in movie theaters.

“We don’t see any other studio doing that with their major titles,” says Fithian. “Universal on 'Fast and Furious 9' didn’t do that either.”

“Trolls World Tour” is scheduled to debut on April 10 in the U.S. for $19.99, available for a 48-hour rental period. International rentals will carry a higher price.

Fithian adds: “Only one studio with one movie [is] where there has been change the business model. All the rest of the movies are going to come back up in this fall and into next year with the same kind of business model we had before the crisis.”

Fithian says that many other yet-to-be-released theatrical movies -- scheduled for April and May -- are being postponed until the second half of the year or later. Some of those movies include Walt Disney’s “Mulan,” MGM/UA’s  “No Time to Die” (Universal has the international rights) and Universal’s “Fast & Furious 9.”

In addition, a few movies had already been released in theaters and now are getting an early start. Fithian said: “We completely understand that. [Movie theaters] are going to shut for two or three months... Give consumers something to watch during the crisis.”

Traditionally, movie theaters have had a key three-month exclusive window for new movies before movie studios would release those films on rental movie platforms (traditional and streaming), pay TV cable networks or via physical rentals.

Since last week, movie theaters have been completely shut down, and now are asking the Federal government for a bailout. Fithian says his members -- 33,000 U.S. movie screens -- are looking for loan guarantees.

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