AMC Won’t Show Universal Films In Its Theaters After The On-Demand Success Of ‘Trolls World Tour’

The ever-changing entertainment landscape just got a bit more tense thanks to some Trolls. Trolls World Tour seems to have started an interesting conflict in the mostly-shuttered movie industry after its distributor, Universal Films, hinted that the success some straight to video on-demand releases have had while theaters are closed may mean the practice continues when theaters open up again.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, AMC Theaters have decided to stop showing Universal Pictures after Trolls World Tour’s success — $20 at a time — created big revenue for Universal while theaters like AMC and others are still shuttered. The move came after NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said on-demand releases “exceeded our expectations” and may encourage them to release movies both on-demand and in theaters in the future:

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

On Monday, Universal announced it would push another film — Pete Davidson’s King Of Staten Island — to a June on-demand release after its debut at South By Southwest was canceled and the growing coronavirus pandemic scuttled traditional release plans. But it seems Trolls and the comments about it prompted a letter from AMC Theatres chair-CEO Adam Aron to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley, which called the idea “disappointing” and announced AMC would not show Universal movies around 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 said in the letter.

“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.”

With theaters closed, it was inevitable that those in the industry will try new methods to make revenue, so releasing straight to on-demand was a matter of time for larger films while theaters are closed. But the theaters companies rely on to legitimize films — except this year, of course — will also do what they need to protect their place in the industry. Netflix and other streaming companies would love to see movie theaters lose their importance in the industry for a variety of reasons, but it’s clear that AMC and presumably other chains will do what they can to fight back as this back and forth continues.

(Via Hollywood Reporter)