Somehow, in this timeline we’re all living in, Universal Pictures’ recent release, the kid-friendly Trolls World Tour, has ignited a storm of serious saber-rattling amidst theater owners. Just one day after AMC Theaters owner Adam Aron declared the chain would not be showing new Universal releases — a statement made in reaction to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell commenting to the Wall Street Journal on the financial success of the Trolls sequel’s straight-to-digital release plan — Regal Cinemas owner Cineworld has also declared their chain of theaters will shun forthcoming Universal movies.
Shell’s praise of Trolls World Tour crossing the $100 million mark in North America after it was released on digital back on April 10 made headlines on Tuesday. The NBCUniversal exec told WSJ Trolls World Tour‘s success now has Universal looking at releasing all new movies on digital the same day as theatrical: “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.
Cineworld has come out in full force against Universal, echoing AMC’s condemnation of Shell and the studio, saying (via Deadline): “Universal’s move is completely inappropriate and certainly has nothing to do with good faith business practice, partnership and transparency,” going on to say,
“Cineworld’s policy with respect to the window is clear, well known in the industry and is part of our commercial deal with our movie suppliers. We invest heavily in our cinemas across the globe and this allows the movie studios to provide customers all around the world to watch the movies in the best experience. There is no argument that the big screen is the best way to watch a movie. Universal unilaterally chose to break our understanding and did so at the height of the COVID-19 crisis when our business is closed, more than 35,000 employees are at home and when we do not yet have a clear date for the reopening of our cinemas.”
Cineworld ended their statement with a resolute reiteration of their stance against Universal, commenting,
“Cineworld’s roots go back 90 years in the industry and it was always open to showing any movie as long as the rules were kept and not changed by one sided moves. 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. We have full confidence in the industry’s current business model. No one should forget that the theatrical side of this industry generated an all-time record income of $42 billion last year and the movie distributors’ share of this was about $20 billion.”
Frankly, Cineworld crossing the line in the sand to stand with AMC in refusing to show Universal Pictures only serves to hurt their own financial interests. Universal is home to numerous major, million- and billion-dollar franchise, including the upcoming Fast and Furious sequel, F9, and Hobbs and Shaw spinoff sequel, Hobbs and Shaw 2. Not to mention, Universal is the studio behind the upcoming Jurassic World threequel, Jurassic World: Dominion, and the upcoming Halloween sequels, Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends. There is so much at stake right now for these theater chains who are already feeling the financial impacts from the global coronavirus pandemic. To shun major upcoming franchise features which could help kickstart theaters once we can all return to said theaters is, uh, pretty bold.
Universal has not yet responded to Cineworld’s statement. However, reps for the studio released a statement on Tuesday night reacting to AMC refusing to show Universal movies, saying,
“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.”
For more on the future of movies, check out our updated 2020 release calendar.