Top US theatre chain pulls Universal films over streaming row

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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.

Trolls World Tour will continue to follow Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake's characters Queen Poppy and Branch as they go on an adventure that will take them well beyond what they've known before, Poppy (Kendrick) and Branch (Timberlake) discover that they are but one of six different Troll tribes scattered over six different lands and devoted to six different kinds of music: Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop and Rock. AMC, the world's largest movie theater chain, cited Universal's decision to release Trolls World Tour directly to on-demand rentals as theaters were shuttered and people were stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

This revelation then prompted Aron to speak, "In the future, AMC will not license any Universal movies in any of our 1,000 theaters worldwide on these terms". "No one should forget that the theatrical side of this industry generated an all-time record income of $42 billion a year ago and the movie distributors' share of this was about $20 billion".

Universal said it made more than $77 million in revenue from "Trolls World Tour" so far.

Raking in around $100 million in its first three weeks in the U.S. alone, Trolls World Tour made Universal realise that it might not need cinemas as much as it thought. To achieve that same amount of revenue during a theatrical run would have required box office sales to hit $154 million, which is what the original "Trolls" movie grossed. That's incredible. When Universal announced this release strategy for Trolls: World Tour, it was more to minimise losses than anything else. For the most part, studios have committed to theaters during the shutdown, postponing major releases to later dates. It was so successful, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell told the WSJ that after the pandemic, the studio would release movies both in-theater and via PVOD.

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Cineworld, owner of the Regal Entertainment exhibition chain, is joining AMC Theatres in refusing to play any Universal Pictures films in the wake of NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell's promise to open titles on premium VOD and in theaters concurrently.

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.

The studio also accused AMC Theatres and the National Association of Theatre Owners of a "seemingly coordinated attempt" to "confuse our position and our actions". 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. And as such, Universal is not abandoning that approach, but it now has other options available as well.

Universal issued a response on Tuesday evening, saying: "We absolutely believe in the theatrical experience and have made no statement to the contrary".

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