Theater Chains Threaten to Cut Ties With Universal Over VOD Plans

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Theater Chains Threaten to Cut Ties With Universal Over VOD Plans

By Allyson Vannatta, Senior Writer

Universal’s TROLLS WORLD TOUR raked in millions of dollars from its video on demand (VOD) release, and it’s causing strife with theater owners. 

Earlier this week, Universal  announced that the premium VOD release of the TROLLS sequel made $100 million in its first three weeks. In light of the movie’s success, Universal announced that they would forgo the traditional exclusive theatrical windowing model.

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell  commented  on the success telling the Wall Street Journal, “The results for ‘Trolls World Tour’ have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD. As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.” 

Shell received backlash from popular theater chain AMC, as the company says they won’t show the studio’s titles anymore because the studio is breaking the normal theatrical window. 

AMC Theaters chairman-CEO Adam Aron said in a  letter, 

“It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice. Therefore, effective immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters in the United States, Europe or the Middle East.” 

However, AMC did say they were willing to sit down and talk with Universal privately about this decision. 

A Universal spokesperson says the studio is “disappointed” by AMC’s statement. 

The studio  commented  back quickly, ensuring they still believe in the theatrical experience and how Universal looks forward to having private conversations about this matter. 

AMC isn’t the only theater chain threatening to stop showing Universal’s movies. 

Regal Cinemas owner Cineworld warned Universal that the chain won’t show movies that “fail to respect” the theatrical window. 

In a statement, Cineworld’s CEO Mooky Greidinger said, 

“Unfortunately I missed similar message in Universal’s announcement … not only did Universal provide no commitment for the future window, but Universal was the only studio that tried to take advantage of the current crisis and provide a ‘day-and-date’ release of a movie that was not yet released.” 

The National Association of Theater Owners released this statement regarding Universal’s comment. 

“Universal does not have reason to use unusual circumstances in an unprecedented environment as a springboard to bypass true theatrical releasesTheaters 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.” 

With theater closures, VOD or delayed release appear to be the only options for upcoming titles.

Two other new movies are set to hit streaming and VOD in the  coming months. Warner Bros.’ SCOOB! And Disney+’s ARTEMIS FOWL both opted out of a theatrical release after their initial release was pushed back due to COVID-19. 

The situation with the theaters and Universal continues to evolve. Check back to Movieguide.org for the latest update. 

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