Chance the Rapper warned us. In a scathing letter obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, AMC Theatres CEO and president Adam Aron said that AMC would no longer play any Universal movies at its theaters. The response comes after NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell told the press that due to the on-demand success of Trolls World Tour, the company “expect[s] to release movies on both formats,” in theaters and online, once venues reopen. AMC took that as a threat. Typically, cinema chains require about 74 to 76 days between a film’s theatrical release and digital release. “AMC believes that with this proposed action to go to the home and theatres simultaneously, Universal is breaking the business model and dealings between our two companies,” Aron said in his letter, alongside the ban. “It assumes that we will meekly accept a reshaped view of how studios and exhibitors should interact, with zero concern on Universal’s part as to how its actions affect us.”
He added that this decision doesn’t just apply to Universal but “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, Universal is the only distributor publicly considering this change. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Universal downplayed the situation. “As we stated earlier, going forward, we expect to release future films directly to theaters, as well as on [premium] VOD when that distribution outlet makes sense. We look forward to having additional private conversations with our exhibition partners but are disappointed by this seemingly coordinated attempt from AMC and NATO to confuse our position and our actions,” a representative for Universal said.
NATO, the National Association of Theatre Owners, released its own statement in response to Universal’s “baseless” callout, saying “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.” With no timeline for when theaters will reopen, all three parties have some time to squash this beef. Phew, a whole industry shake-up over Trolls World Tour? Frozen 2 wishes.