AMC Theatres Will No longer Screen Universal Films Over ‘Trolls 2’ Dispute

AMC Theatres announced it will no longer screen Universal Pictures films following NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell’s comments on the success of Trolls World Tour.

While most studios opted to delay the debut of their respective films when the coronavirus forced movie theaters to close and audiences to remain indoors, Universal instead decided to make  Trolls World Tour available on PVOD on the same day the animated sequel received a limited theatrical release. In the three weeks since Trolls World Tour debuted, the film has earned close to $100 million in digital sales and the success of the sequel prompted NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell to state that Universal will now release its films in both theatrical and premium video-on-demand formats when movie theaters reopen.

In response, AMC Theatres chair-CEO Adam Aron penned a letter to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley stating the theater chain will no longer screen the studio’s films in any of its cinemas the United States, Europe or the Middle East. Now, a Universal representative has released a statement defending the studios’ decision to release Trolls World Tour on PVOD and reiterated its support of the theatrical experience:

“Our goal in releasing ‘Trolls: World Tour’ on PVOD was to deliver entertainment to people who are sheltering at home, while movie theatres and other forms of outside entertainment are unavailable.  Based on the enthusiastic response to the film, we believe we made the right move. In fact, given the choice of not releasing ‘Trolls: World Tour,’ which would not only have prevented consumers from experiencing the movie but also negatively impacted our partners and employees, the decision was clear. Our desire has always been to efficiently deliver entertainment to as wide an audience as possible.  We absolutely believe in the theatrical experience and have made no statement to the contrary.  As we stated earlier, going forward, we expect to release future films directly to theatres, as well as on PVOD when that distribution outlet makes sense.  We look forward to having additional private conversations with our exhibition partners but are disappointed by this seemingly coordinated attempt from AMC and NATO to confuse our position and our actions.

The National Association of Theatre Owners made the following statement on the situation:

“Earlier today NATO issued a statement regarding Universal Studios’ public comments in the Wall Street Journal regarding that studios’ evaluation of the results of releasing the movie Trolls World Tour directly to the home without a theatrical release, and specifically that Universal would release future movies both theatrically and to the home.

Also today, according to various public press reports, AMC released a letter that company sent to Universal stating AMC’s individual company reaction to Universal’s public statement earlier in the day in the Wall Street Journal. NATO and AMC did not coordinate those statements in any way. Indeed, AMC had no comment on NATO’s draft statement when sent to NATO’s Board of Directors, nor did AMC participate in the Board deliberations regarding that statement. Regarding AMC’s reported letter to Universal, NATO had no involvement with nor knowledge of that letter before reading about it in the press.”

Without any knowledge of the facts, or the common courtesy to inquire about those facts, Universal nonetheless made the reckless charge this evening that  the company is “disappointed by this seemingly coordinated attempt from AMC and NATO to confuse our position and our actions. Unfortunately Universal has a destructive tendency to both announce decisions affecting their exhibitor partners without actually consulting with those partners, and now of making unfounded accusations without consulting with their partners.”

AMC CEO Adam Aron made the following statement on Universal’ decision:

“AMC believes that with this proposed action to go to the home and theatres simultaneously, Universal is breaking the business model and dealings between our two companies. It assumes that we will meekly accept a reshaped view of how studios and exhibitors should interact, with zero concern on Universal’s part as to how its actions affect us. It also presumes that Universal in fact can have its cake and eat it too, that Universal film product can be released to the home and theatres at the same time, without modification to the current economic arrangements between us.”

NATO president and CEO John Fithian made the following statement arguing against Universal using the coronavirus pandemic as justification for bypassing traditional theatrical releases:

“Universal does not have reason to use unusual circumstances in an unprecedented environment as a springboard to bypass true theatrical releases. Theaters provide a beloved immersive, shared experience that cannot be replicated – an experience that many of the VOD viewers of this film would have participated in had the world not been sequestered at home, desperate for something new to watch with their families. We are confident that when theaters reopen, studios will continue to benefit from the global theatrical box office, followed by traditional home release.”

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Source: The Wrap

 

Sebastian Peris

Sebastian Peris

Canadian film buff, political junkie, comic book geek, and board game enthusiast.