2020 is playing out in ways that no one would have guessed, and few people could have anticipated a major movie-business fight breaking out over Trolls World Tour. That’s the case, however, after Universal Pictures released the children’s film as a $20 on-demand rental, and parents hopped all over that business because pandemic entertainment is no joke. This led to over $100 million rolling in over the course of three weeks (and surely, more to come) for this movie, and that upset the AMC theater chain, which would have preferred for Universal to hang tight until movies could play in theaters again. And so, AMC made the public declaration that they’d no longer screen Universal movies after what it called a “unilateral” decision from the studio.
Following the banning declaration, Universal has now issued a lengthy response that defends the Trolls World Tour decision as the right move and stresses their desire to protect its own employees and provide entertainment to those who are in quarantine:
“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.”
Universal’s statement reiterated its previous sentiment that they’re planning to release movies both on PVOD (“when that distribution outlet makes sense”) and in theaters, even after outlets reopen across the U.S. The studio added its belief that there’s been a “seemingly coordinated attempt from AMC and NATO” to misinterpret Universal’s actions, and then NATO issued its own statement about Universal’s “reckless charge,” and my gosh, this is getting extremely ugly:
“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.”
Regardless of how this all plays out, both Universal and AMC are making bold moves here during an already arduous time for all of humanity, including the movie industry and the practice of maintaining theatrical windows. Upcoming Universal flicks include massive tentpoles like Fast and Furious 9 and Minions: The Rise of Gru, both of which should be massive successes for the studio with their pushed-back 2021 release dates in theaters. In the meantime, Universal decided to experiment, and it’s had the side-effect of making folks wonder if more on-demand new releases might be welcome. Well, Trolls World Tour fans think that it’s a good thing, and this story undoubtedly isn’t over yet, although it’s doubtful that AMC or Universal will benefit if there’s no resolution on this ban business.