AMC Finds Out World Doesn’t Revolve Around its Theaters, is Upset

Trolls: World Tour did too well for the company's liking.

Due to the closing of theaters across the world, Universal made the sensible move to premiere Trolls: World Tour on digital platforms rather than go the route of companies like Disney, which have been delaying movies from their originally planned theatrical release dates to a time when the world isn’t being shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. From the sound of it, the animated movie had a great deal of success, with just under $100 million in rentals since it launched on April 10. As such, in talking to the Wall Street Journal, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said Universal will be releasing movies both in theaters and on digital platforms on the same day.

Meanwhile, the theater chain AMC is upset that a movie released digitally during a pandemic was able to do just fine without its establishments being open and is throwing a tantrum, and is refusing to play Universal movies when the company is able to reopen theaters, according to a statement by AMC Theatres chair-CEO Adam Aron.

[via Hollywood Reporter]

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

“This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theaters reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat. Incidentally, this policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, it also extends to any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes. Currently, with the press comment today, Universal is the only studio contemplating a wholesale change to the status quo. Hence, this immediate communication in response.”

In other news:

A few things of note here: Right now, everyone in the movie business is scrambling to do anything with movie theater chains closed during the coronavirus pandemic, with even Disney opting to release Onward on digital platforms to make up for the movie’s launching when people abruptly stopped going to movie theaters. AMC, meanwhile, is currently in a flux of maybe/maybe not having to file for bankruptcy as its entire business has been shut down. So a company with everything to lose right now is burning a bridge with a major studio, saying it’s a disruption of the status quo. Literally using that phrase, too. So if you’re a theater diehard and frequent AMC theaters I guess you won’t be able to see some big movies like F9 or Jurassic World: Dominion there, but have you considered Regal or a locally run theater instead?

At any rate, given the irregular state of things, it’s unclear if Trolls: World Tour’s success could be replicated right away in a world where theaters were still open for business. Speaking personally, I really enjoy going to the theater, but I do see that there are a lot of empty seats in any showing I go to that’s not a Marvel premiere, so maybe the coronavirus has merely sped up the inevitable. Sure am going to miss the popcorn and Icee combo, though.

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Kenneth Shepard

Kenneth is a Georgia-based writer who still periodically cries about the Mass Effect trilogy years after it concluded.

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