Movie theaters such as Regal Cinemas, Cinemark, and AMC Theatres are dealing with a major disruption to their business because of the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing, and subsequent shutdowns that have put the rest of the industry on pause. And while studios and distributors attempt to figure out a way to recoup on immediate losses while also keeping people entertained as they stay indoors. But Universal Pictures may have made some powerful enemies in their strategy to release Trolls World Tour straight to VOD over the Easter holiday, and the success they've experienced has hurt their relationship with some exhibitors.
Regal Entertainment has now joined AMC in saying they will no longer air movies distributed by Universal Pictures if the studio continues to ignore release windows, with parent company Cineworld Group issuing a statement.
"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."
They added, "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. Universal's move is completely inappropriate and certainly has nothing to do with good faith business practice, partnership and transparency."
Universal previously defended its actions in releasing Trolls World Tour on VOD and made it clear they're planning to support the theatrical release model in the future.
"We absolutely believe in the theatrical experience and have made no statement to the contrary. As we stated earlier, going forward, we expect to release future films directly to theatres, as well as on PVOD 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."
AMC Theaters was the first chain to issue a public statement denouncing Universal's practice after they touted the VOD success of Trolls World Tour, putting forth the possibility of banning future movies such as F9: The Fast Saga from their screens.