AMC Bans Universal Movies From Its Theaters Over VOD Policy

The theater chain says the policy "represents nothing but downside for us"

AMC Theater entrance
An AMC theater in Times Square.
Erin Lefevre/NurPhoto via Getty Images

After Universal Pictures announced Tuesday, April 28 that — coming off of the streaming success of Trolls World Tour — it would begin releasing first-run movies on-demand as well as in theaters, AMC Theatres swiftly responded by banning the studio’s films from its 1,000 cinemas.

In an open letter to Universal chairman Donna Langley, AMC CEO Adam Aron said the company won’t tolerate studios abandoning the longstanding 90-day theatrical window for new releases.

“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,” he wrote in the letter.

“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,” he added. “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.”

In response to AMC’s letter, Universal issued the following statement:

“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. 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.”

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