With coronavirus bringing the film industry to a halt, Universal moved the Trolls sequel to video on demand on 10 April, making an estimated $100m in North America in the three weeks since.
Addressing the future of film release, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that even after cinemas reopened, the company would keep releasing films in both formats.
In rebuttal, AMC Theatres chair-CEO Adam Aron wrote a letter to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley branding Shell’s words “unacceptable”.
“It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice,” he wrote. “Therefore, effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theatres in the United States, Europe or the Middle East.”
Aron continued: “This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theatres 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… Universal is the only studio contemplating a wholesale change to the status quo.”
AMC were supported by the National Association of Theatre Owners, who weighed in and said that the success of Trolls World Tour was positive, but not “the new normal”.
“Universal does not have reason to use unusual circumstances in an unprecedented environment as a springboard to bypass true theatrical releases,” said president and CEO John Fithian.
Universal has denied attempting to sever ties with cinemas and claims that Shell’s comments were misconstrued in a “seemingly coordinated attempt from AMC and NATO to confuse our position and our actions”.
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