Universal Pictures Reacts to AMC Theatres Refusing to Play Their Films

Following AMC Theatres making the bold claim that it would no longer be screening films from Universal Pictures, the movie studio clarified their passion for the theatrical experience and their goal of delivering stories to as many audiences as possible on the appropriate platforms. The inciting incident between the companies was Universal professing that their On Demand release of Trolls: World Tour at a time when the entire world was quarantined in their homes due to the coronavirus confirmed that they might pursue this delivery system for more films in the future. AMC Theatres was quick to issue a statement confirming that, if Universal was to deprive theaters of their films, they would no longer exhibit any of them.

“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," Universal Pictures shared in a statement, per Variety. "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.”

To say that Trolls: World Tour skipping a theatrical release entirely is a unique situation would be an understatement, as the coronavirus pandemic has not only shuttered all movie theaters around the globe indefinitely, but movie and TV productions have halted as well. Given that NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell merely commented initially that he expected the studio to pursue releasing films on both platforms in the future without clarifying what those possible strategies might be, AMC's reaction was quite bold.

“Our desire has always been to efficiently deliver entertainment to as wide an audience as possible,” Universal confessed. “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.”

The prominence of VOD releases in recent years have seen distributors take new approaches to releasing their films, with smaller studios typically making their films available for in-home rentals, as such titles previously were relegated to independent theaters. Larger studios typically waited three months before making their films available for in-home rentals after landing in theaters, with the Trolls sequel's popularity on VOD services likely impacting major studios' future releases.

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