'Trolls World Tour' Digital Success Prompts AMC Theaters Ban on Universal Films
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AMC announces the decision following NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell's comments about the on-demand success of the animated movie and what it means for the future of moviegoing.

AceShowbiz - AMC Theaters is cutting ties with Universal Pictures in the wake of "Trolls World Tour" digital success. As the studio is celebrating the $100 million gross of the animated movie in premium VOD rentals since its April 10 release in North America, the world's largest cinema chain has decided not to play any of the studio's films from now on.

This move was prompted by NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell's comments on the on-demand success of the "Trolls" and how it would affect the studio's strategy to release its movies in the future post-coronavirus pandemic. "The results for 'Trolls World Tour' have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD," Shell told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the numbers. "As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats."

Shell's statement didn't sit well with AMC Theatres chair-CEO Adam Aron, who called the comments unacceptable. In a letter to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley, he wrote, "It is disappointing to us, but Jeff's comments as to Universal's unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice. Therefore, effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters in the United States, Europe or the Middle East."

"This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theaters reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat," he continued, before giving a stern warning to other studios which decide to do the same practice regarding the release of their movies. "Incidentally, this policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, it 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, with the press comment today, Universal is the only studio contemplating a wholesale change to the status quo. Hence, this immediate communication in response," it concluded.

Universal has since responded to AMC's letter, saying that Shell's comments were misconstrued. "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 theaters, as well as on PVOD when that distribution outlet makes sense," the studio said in a statement. "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."

It went on explaining, "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."

"Trolls World Tour" was originally planned to be released theatrically. But due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that made that an impossibility for now, Universal bypassed theaters in favor of launching the movie on-demand.

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