Universal Angers Cinema Chains by Suggesting It’ll Release Films on Demand After the Pandemic


AMC Theaters, owners of Odeon here in the UK, and Cineworld, have made it clear that they won’t be showing any Universal movies at their cinemas following comments from the company about its plans for film releases post-pandemic.

The kerfuffle kicked off with comments made by NBCUniversal CEO, Jeff Shell, when he was talking about the success of Trolls World Tour; the film was released on VOD because we’re all in lockdown and swanning off to the cinema of an evening isn’t a thing anyone can do right now. Shell basically said Universal plans “to release movies on both formats,” which has put the wind up AMC, who are of the opinion that launching films in cinemas and on VOD at the same time is “unacceptable”. CEO Adam Aron said:

“It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice. 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.”

Blimey, he’s not messing about. A Universal spokeman has tried to calm down the situation, 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.”

However, it might be too little, too late, as Cineworld quickly backed up AMC, and are also refusing to show the studio’s films, adding:

“Universal’s move is completely inappropriate and certainly has nothing to do with good faith business practice, partnership and transparency.”

Universal’s franchises include the Bond films, Lego movies, Fast and Furious, and Jurassic Park, so we’ll see who this decision hurts more – although it could be that tempers are frayed during lockdown and a sit down with a cuppa will resolve all of this. We’ll see. [GamesRadar+]

Feature image credit: Unsplash


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