AMC Bans Universal Movies From Its Theaters During ‘Trolls World Tour’

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AMC CEO Adam Aron announced the ban on Tuesday in a letter to Universal President Donna Langley, noting that the decision was triggered by a quote from NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell at the Wall Street Journal about the successful digital success of “Trolls World Tour”.

While the animated film for children was originally scheduled for a theatrical release, the coronavirus pandemic has made this impossible for the moment. Universal therefore bypassed cinemas in favor of the launch of the on-demand film.

The move seems to have paid off: the studio has earned nearly $ 100 million in rental fees since its digital release on April 10. Shell told the newspaper that the film “exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability” of the video on demand.

But it’s Shell’s next quote that really infuriated AMC.

“As soon as the theaters reopen,” added Shell, “we plan to release films in both formats. “

The increase in streaming and video-on-demand has led studios to struggle with theaters over what is known as the “theatrical window”, the length of time a film is shown in theaters before being released. offered on other platforms. Renowned figures in Hollywood, including director Steven Spielberg, have spoken out on maintaining the distinction between streaming and theatrical releases, for example.

The pandemic, however, has disrupted the film industry, at least temporarily. Major film studios – including Universal – have moved films like The Invisible Man “and” The Hunt “to on-demand platforms, while delaying potential blockbuster releases like the upcoming Fast & Furious” F9 movie “As businesses and governments try to prevent large crowds from gathering and potentially spreading the disease.

In the letter, which AMC also released, Aron said the film giant had accepted Universal’s decision to publish “Trolls” digitally as an “exception” in “unprecedented times”.

But he said that Shell’s remarks about the release of “both formats” when the theaters reopened represented a “radical change” to the business model, which “is nothing more than an inconvenience to us and is categorically unacceptable ”for AMC.

“Effectively immediately AMC ((AMC) will no longer be showing Universal movies in any of our cinemas in the United States, Europe or the Middle East, “he said, adding that the policy is” not a hollow or thoughtless threat “.

Aron added that the theater chain is not trying to specifically punish Universal, but will apply the ban to “any filmmaker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices in the absence of good faith negotiations between us, so that they , as a distributor and we as an exhibitor, benefit and neither are hurt by such changes. “

Universal, meanwhile, challenged Aron’s interpretation. The film studio said in response to the CMA letter that it “absolutely” believed in the theatrical experience and “had made no claims to the contrary”.

“Our goal in releasing” Trolls: World Tour “” on demand “was to provide entertainment to people who take shelter at home, while movie theaters and other forms of outdoor entertainment are not available,” said one. Universal spokesperson said in a statement. “Based on the enthusiastic response to the film, we believe we made the right choice. “

The company said it plans to broadcast future films directly to cinemas in the future, as well as on demand “when this distribution point makes sense.” He added that he looked forward to “more private conversations with our exhibition partners” and that he was disappointed with the attempt to “confuse our position and our actions”.

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