Update: Cineworld – the company behind Regal theaters – has announced they are joining AMC Theatres in refusing to air any Universal movies, according to a recent Variety report (opens in new tab). “Universal’s move is completely inappropriate and certainly has nothing to do with good faith business practice, partnership and transparency,” Cineworld said.
The announcement was made not long after AMC CEO Adam Aron announced Universal's conduct was "disappointing" and left AMC "with no choice" following comments on Trolls World Tour's video on demand (VOD) success.
Original Story: You may not be able to see the next Fast and Furious (opens in new tab) movie in a cinema owned by AMC Theaters – the umbrella group that runs numerous showrooms in the US and owns the UK chain Odeon. That's because AMC has decided to ban all Universal-produced movies from their cinemas following comments made by the CEO for NBCUniversal, Jeff Shell.
Following the success of Trolls World Tour (opens in new tab), which was released on VOD after cinemas closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shell said we should expect Universal "to release movies on both formats". While Shell did not lay out Universal's strategy for release windows concerning VOD and cinema, the comments sparked an immediate backlash from AMC, with the theater chain's chair-CEO Adam Aron calling them "unacceptable".
"It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice,” Aron wrote in a statement. “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."
Universal's biggest franchises include the Fast and Furious movies, the James Bond movies (internationally but not North America), Jurassic Park, Universal's monster movies, and any upcoming Lego movies. (opens in new tab)
Aron went on to clarify that any filmmaking studio who decides to change the current status quo regarding release windows would face a similar response. This would not affect Disney and Warner Bros – releasing Artemis Fowl and Sccob on VOD in the coming months – as the two studios have yet to commit to VOD releases when cinemas reopen.
Universal was quick to respond to AMC's drastic stance, a spokesman saying: "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 (premiere video on demand) 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."
While AMC remains adamant about not showing Universal movies, time will tell whether they can stick to their guns when cinemas reopen. Reports have already signalled that the public will be less willing to venture to cinemas for quite some time – potentially even until a vaccine for COVID-19 is discovered – and AMC may need all the blockbusters they can show to survive less ticket sales.