Movie TheatersBy Tom Dougherty
Can movie theaters become brands?
If there’s one thing we’ve learned past four months, the COVID-19 pandemic speeds up trends already in motion. Car lots and grocery stores are becoming more virtual. We’re all finding Zoom to be a daily tool. And movie theaters must change or die.
The most impactful agreement to affect the latter is the deal struck by AMC Theatres and Universal Studios last week. If you haven’t heard, it’s like an earthquake in the San Andreas Fault in Hollywood. In a nutshell, AMC Theatres is getting into the streaming business.
And it was going to happen eventually anyway.
Streaming is booming during this time and, judging by the new services popping up recently (HBO MAX, Peacock, etc.), it’s only going to get bigger. Movie theaters are closed and bleeding money. So the pact between the two says new releases can be streamed 17 days after they’re shown in theaters.
That shrinks the previous window of at least three months down to a few weeks. And AMC Theatres gets a piece of the pie.
That means new Universal releases will be coming to your streaming box as presented by AMC Theatres. It’s not a leap to think there will eventually be an AMC Theatres streaming service, like Hulu or Netflix.
“It’s also not a leap to think movie theaters will need to consider themselves as brands. Previously, they just owned buildings and attendance was primarily driven by what’s on their screens. They never really thought about developing meaningful brands to drive preference.”
Movie theaters can create preference, but often don’t
It’s also not a leap to think movie theaters will need to consider themselves as brands. Previously, they just owned buildings and attendance was primarily driven by what’s on their screens. They never really thought about developing meaningful brands to drive preference.
The Universal-AMC pact will only be the first of its kind. More are sure to follow as fellow movie studios and theaters realize they must join up to save themselves. Studios themselves think through a brand prism, although only a few do it well. (Disney is the first to come to mind.)
While the movie theater brands will probably just fall back on the similar strategy of their brick and mortar plan (look what’s showing here!), branding makes all the difference in streaming. It’s the reason why Disney+ signed up 33.5 million subscribers the first month. Disney is a brand to be coveted.
Now, the movies will arrive in streaming the same way movies are coming through now, where you rent a new release for about $20. But what sense does it make for the movie theaters themselves not to develop brands so they are the preferred outlet?
Otherwise, they become beholden the deals they strike with the studios themselves. Then they’re basically in the same spot they are now.
What does watching a movie presented by AMC Theatres mean? Right now, nothing. But the opportunity for it and other movie theaters to satisfactorily answer that question is tremendous.
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