Over the course of the pandemic, studios have been renegotiating deals with film exhibitors to create new ways for fans to watch upcoming films without risking their health. Now, Universal is changing its distribution as well. Announced Thursday, the streaming service Peacock will now host most feature films from Universal Filmed Entertainment Group as early as forty-five days after their theatrical run.
The distribution model will begin in 2022 and will include the female espionage action film The 355, romantic comedy Ticket to Paradise, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts, Blumhouse horror film The Black Phone, musical comedy Marry Me, action thriller Ambulance, from director-producer Michael Bay, and horror sequel Halloween Ends. This deal will not include summer 2022 films Jurassic World: Dominion and Minions: The Rise of Gru. These films will arrive on Peacock at some point, just not as early as forty-five days.
Universal is the last of the major streamers to make such a deal with distribution exhibitors. Companies such as Disney, Warner Bros., and Paramount have already begun streaming their movies on their respective platforms following a 45-day theatrical run.
Prior to the announcement, Universal held agreements that allowed their films to be available for premium video-on-demand release, where consumers could pay $19.99 to rent a film. Universal was the first amongst the studios to reevaluate their distribution deals at the beginning of the pandemic, but the last to pursue the 45-day theatrical run option. Peacock president Kelly Campbell had this to say about the new arrangement:
“As we continue investing in the most valued and sought-after content for Peacock, films are essential to that mix. The team at Universal Filmed Entertainment Group are fantastic partners and we are excited to bring their amazing slate of blockbuster films and beloved franchises to Peacock as early as 45 days after their theatrical release, and provide a steady stream of fresh, original films exclusively for Peacock customers throughout the year.”
NBCUniversal made it clear that the new arrangement would not affect the existing video-on-demand deal, ensuring consumers without Peacock could still access the films. Universal was also one of the first studios to experiment with dual releases, allowing their films The Boss Baby: Family Business and Halloween Kills to debut on Peacock on the same day of their theatrical release.
“Prioritizing the theatrical experience and eventizing our world class content remains the cornerstone of our business,” added Peter Levinsohn, Chief Distribution Officer and Vice Chairman of Universal Films Entertainment Group. “By ensuring our upcoming slate has both a theatrical window and timely Peacock debut, we satisfy the needs and expectations for key stakeholders across the spectrum, from our filmmakers and producing partners, to cinemagoers and Peacock subscribers.”
Only time will tell how audiences will engage with cinema as they enter the new year. Whether it be through streaming services or in-person theaters, the films slated for 2022 are sure to be up for the challenge.