So this is both a big deal, but also likely meaningless all at the same time. Let's get some of the information out of the way...
PART 1: Universal announces 'Trolls World Tour' on-demand release was successful, says they may do it again in the future...
“The results for ‘Trolls World Tour’ have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD [premium video on-demand],” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell told the Wall Street Journal. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.” (via Quartz)
PART 2: AMC, not happy, responded saying they would be banning Universal movies from their theaters...
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, the world's largest collection of movie theatres. Going forward, AMC will not license any Universal movies in any of our 1,000 theatres globally on these terms.
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 theatres simultaneously, Universal is breaking the business model and dealings between our two companies.
This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theatres reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat. 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. (via BusinessWire)
PART 3: Universal responds to AMC's threat…
“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. 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.
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. 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. (via IndieWire)
PART 4 (the last part, for now): Regal (via Cineworld, their owners) joins AMC in their anger over Universal's comments…
“All our partners called us in timely manner and told us that in the current situation they want to shorten window for movies that were already released as cinemas are closing, most importantly, they all reassured us that there will be no change to their window policy once the cinema business returned,” Greidinger said to Roberts. “Unfortunately I missed similar message in Universal’s announcement … not only did Universal provide no commitment for the future window — but Universal was the only studio that tried to take advantage of the current crisis and provide a ‘day-and-date’ release of a movie that was not yet released.” (via IndieWire)
Okay, that's a lot of fucking statements, so here is a TLDR:
1. Universal was happy 'Trolls' did well, wants to release some movies on-demand going forward
2. AMC doesn't like this, bands Universal movies from their theaters
3. Universal says they love theaters, but simply wanted to note they'll send movies to streaming when it makes sense
4. Regal says fuck that and joins AMC in banning Universal movies
Do I think this is serious? Honestly, no, I don't… at all. My reasoning?
Look at the upcoming release schedule for Universal and its movies:
May 2020: None
June 2020: None
July 2020: 'The Forever Purge'
August 2020: None
September 2020: 'Candyman', 'Praise This'
October 2020: 'Bios', 'Halloween Kills'
November 2020: 'No Time To Die', Untitled Amblin movie
December 2020: 'The Croods 2', 'News of the World'
See what I am getting at here? There aren't many big movies, and the two biggest ones don't hit theaters until October. I am excited about 'Candyman', but it isn't in the same ballpark in terms of box office hype as 'Halloween Kills' or, especially, 'No Time To Die'. The next movie Universal has tapped for theaters is 'The Forever Purge' in July and we haven't seen anything about the movie, so who knows when it is even going to be released.
AMC, and now Regal, have until September until they have to show a Universal movie. This is a great time to make a threat to the studio, but also a threat I just can't take seriously. Come 2021, the story changes a bit, with 'Fast & Furious 9' releasing, as well as 'Minions: The Rise of Gru' and 'Jurassic World: Dominion'.
But for now, neither side is losing anything. This is no different than the whole Sony-Disney debate over Spider-Man being in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course they were going to strike a deal, they both need each other an equal amount. That's, even more, the case for movie theaters, studios need theaters and theaters need studios.
I can see both sides, the whole thing is a business and they both need to find viable ways to make money. Despite my love of their popcorn, I don't even think I side with AMC here, because I know why Universal would try and send out smaller movies, or not the big prestige blockbusters, onto streaming platforms. Maybe it would even allow studios more creative freedom and the willingness to take risks. Who knows!
I do know this, you can check back on this blog in November, but you will be able to see 'No Time To Die' in an AMC or Regal theater come November. I guarantee it!