AMC Theaters Cuts Ties With Universal Pictures After “Trolls World Tour” Digital Release

AMC Theaters and Universal Pictures have been involved in quite the feud throughout this entire coronavirus pandemic. Things seemed to hit a boiling point this week as well, as AMC announced that they no longer would be playing movies from Universal, which is one of the biggest studios in Hollywood today. 

This all started when Universal made the decision to release their most recent animated feature, “Trolls World Tour,” directly on premium video on-demand services, as well as a few drive-in theaters throughout the country. The studio made this decision amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the fact that all movie theaters in America essentially shut down the same week that the movie was originally scheduled to be released in theaters. 

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“Trolls World Tour” actually did amazing numbers for Universal, especially considering the movie was directly released for at-home viewing. This led to Universal making a victorious statement once the initial week of the movie’s release turned out to be a massive success. Within this statement, NBCUniversal’s CEO Jeff Shell insinuated that the studio would potentially begin releasing some movies in theaters and on-demand in the future once this pandemic subsides. This was interpreted by AMC as a direct threat. 

This statement also followed an announcement that Universal’s newest movie, “The King Of Staten Island” starring Pete Davidson, would also be directly released onto on-demand services. AMC and other major theater chains throughout the country were less than pleased hearing these pieces of news back to back. 

“This radical change by Universal to the business model that currently exists between our two companies represents nothing but downside for us and is categorically unacceptable to AMC Entertainment. Accordingly, we want to be absolutely clear, so that there is no ambiguity of any kind. AMC believes that with this proposed action to go to the home and theaters simultaneously, Universal is breaking the business model and dealings between our two companies,” AMC CEO and President Adam Aron said in a statement. 

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Which prompted Universal Pictures to respond and defend the studio to AMC and the general public. A spokesperson for Universal said:

“Our desire has always been to efficiently deliver entertainment to as wide an audience as possible. We absolutely believe in the theatrical experience and have made no statement to the contrary.”

Like any major argument, this seems to be a classic case of miscommunication fueled by the uncertainty of the future post-pandemic. AMC however, hasn’t made a clear definitive statement about the future of their relationship with Universal. The theater is mainly focusing on financial recovery, especially considering all theaters are indefinitely closed and not earning any money at the moment. 

Many major movie theaters aren’t projected to re-open until the end of this summer, and even that’s still unclear. For now, lower level employees are hoping that both AMC and Universal can put aside their differences to re-collaborate once this pandemic is over, as both corporations have been extremely mutually beneficial to each other. The goal from Universal is that AMC retracts their original aggressive declaration, and the two are able to find a happy middle ground. For now, like all things in the world right now, only time will tell how well these industries recover in a post-Covid world.