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AMC Vows to Boycott Universal Studios Movies Over Release Window

Posted on Wednesday, April 29th, 2020 12:44 PM

© 2020 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Much attention was paid to Trolls World Tour since it was released directly to streaming services on April 10, 2020 instead of its originally-planned theatrical debut on that day. With almost every movie theater in the country shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the studio had a choice to delay the movie's release or to release it on streaming services, and they chose the latter.

While the exact revenue numbers have not been publicized, Universal was happy enough with the results to make a statement about changing how it was going to release movies after movie theaters reopen:

"The results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD," [NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell] told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the numbers. "As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats."

According to multiple news reports, AMC Theatres has taken exception to the statement, which basically throws the traditional exclusivity release window out the window.

The Hollywood Reporter published an article recently that said that AMC has notified Universal that the comments were unacceptable:

In a strongly worded letter to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley, AMC Theatres chair-CEO Adam Aron said Shell's comments were unacceptable. AMC is the largest circuit in the world.

"It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice. 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," Aron wrote.

"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," he continued. "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."

Click the Read link below to view the full article.

Since AMC is the largest movie theater chain in the world, this is a major standoff, and the results of which could shift the landscape of how movies are released significantly.

AMC went head-to-head with Moviepass some time ago when the latter company's practices threatened AMC's business model. Moviepass is no longer in any position to be a threat, but AMC stands as having adopted the Moviepass subscription model the best of any chain.

Much will depend on how other theater chains respond. If the major chains close ranks and stand up to Universal, they will likely succeed or at least, contain the damage. If they sit this out and let AMC venture out alone, they risk the outcome that happens without entering the fight.

The first to back up AMC is Cineworld Group, the world's second-biggest movie theater chain and owner of Regal Entertainment in the United States. IndieWire reports the following:

Regal Entertainment owner Cineworld Group, the world’s second-biggest circuit, is following in AMC’s footsteps. “Today we make it clear again that we will not be showing movies that fail to respect the windows as it does not make any economic sense for us,” the company wrote in a statement.

The two movie chains account for about 1,200 locations in the United States alone, which is about 20% of all active movie theaters.

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