AMC Theaters Bans Universal’s Films After Studio Opts for Simultaneous, Day-and-Date Releases

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Image: AMC

If you’re interested in seeing the next Jurassic Park or Fast and Furious film on the silver screen, Regal Cinemas may be your only choice. Following a decision by Universal to release movies simultaneously on digital, AMC Entertainment CEO and President Adam Aron has announced that he’s banning the studio from his theater chain.

The skirmish began after NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell revealed that he’d be embracing the day-and-date model due to the success of Trolls World Tour, which was released early on digital platforms. Despite lacking a theatrical release, the animated film still managed to earn Universal close to $100 million in three weeks.

What’s excellent news for the studio (as well as movie aficionados who’d rather skip the theater) has prompted serious retaliation from Aron. “Universal stated it only pursued a direct-to-home entertainment release for ‘Trolls World Tour‘ because theaters were closed and Universal was committed to a lucrative toy licensing deal,” he argued. “We had our doubts that this was wholly Universal’s motivations, as it has been a longstanding desire by Universal to go to the home day and date. Nonetheless, we accepted this action as an exception to our longstanding business practices in these unprecedented times.”

“Accordingly, we want to be absolutely clear, so that there is no ambiguity of any kind. 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.”

It’s unclear how far Aron intends to take his spat with Universal. Does AMC Theaters really want to miss out on potential billion-dollar hits, such as F9?

Update: Universal Studios has released the following retort:

“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 [National Association of Theatre Owners] to confuse our position and our actions.”

And here’s NATO’s response:

“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.”

Tsing Mui
News poster at The FPS Review.

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