Cinemark Reopens Theaters, But Won’t Show Jon Stewart’s New Film
(Bloomberg) -- Cinemark Holdings Inc.’s just-reopened Texas theaters won’t show one of the only new movies that’s out right now, a result of a widening disagreement between studios and cinemas over how long films should exclusively show on the big screen.
“Irresistible,” a political comedy written and directed by comedian Jon Stewart, was released Friday for digital rental and in select theaters. It’s currently showing at dozens of cinemas run by smaller exhibitors in the U.S. But the film won’t appear at Cinemark’s five open locations, even as the company goes to great lengths to draw in movie fans and reverse the financial damage caused by a four-month shutdown.
The film, released by a unit of Universal Pictures, doesn’t honor the so-called theatrical window -- an increasingly sore topic in Hollywood. Because the movie is being released simultaneously to cinemas and home video, it violates a long-running understanding that Cinemark and other theaters have with studios. Theatrical releases are meant to appear in theaters for about 75 days before they’re made available for digital rental or streaming.
Studios have long tried to adjust those agreements to gain more freedom over film distribution. And the pandemic provided them a new opening. With theaters shut down, studios sent more movies straight to video, angering cinema chains.
It exploded into a public war in April. Universal executives said one of the studio’s films, “Trolls World Tour,” had so much success with at-home renters, the company might skip theaters more often. The head of AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., Adam Aron, responded with an angry letter that said the chain would no longer show movies from the studio.
Cinemark Chief Executive Officer Mark Zoradi has been more circumspect. He didn’t sever ties with Universal, and the chain is showing several movies from the studio as part of its reopening plan. That includes “The Invisible Man” and “The Hunt,” which already debuted on home video after their theatrical runs were cut short by the pandemic. But Zoradi has said the theatrical window is vital to the chain.
“We think the exclusive window is very important to the theatrical experience,” he said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call. “And so we’re going to be extremely careful about any undue change to that.”
When asked why Cinemark wasn’t showing “Irresistible,” a representative pointed to those remarks. Universal representatives didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Cinemark opened three locations in Texas last week and is opening two more Friday. Attendance is capped to adhere to social-distancing rules, while seats will be regularly sanitized and cash payments disallowed. Cinemark is the only top-three U.S. chain that doesn’t require moviegoers to wear masks, instead deferring to local guidelines.
The company hasn’t altered its reopening plans -- even as Texas faces a surge in coronavirus cases, prompting the governor to shut down bars and reduce capacity at restaurants. The other two big chains, AMC and Cineworld Group Plc’s Regal, won’t start their reopening process until July.
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