While the animated children’s film was initially scheduled for a theatrical release, the coronavirus pandemic has made that an impossibility for now. So Universal bypassed theaters in favor of launching the movie on-demand.
But it was Shell’s next quote that really incensed AMC.
“As soon as theaters reopen,” Shell added, “we expect to release movies on both formats.”
In the letter, which AMC also released publicly, Aron said the movie giant accepted Universal’s decision to release “Trolls” digitally as an “exception” in “unprecedented times.”
But he said Shell’s remarks about releasing movies on “both formats” as theaters reopen represented a “radical change” to the business model that “represents nothing but downside for us and is categorically unacceptable” to AMC.
Aron added that the theater chain isn’t trying to punish Universal specifically, but will apply the ban 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.”
Universal, meanwhile, disputed Aron’s interpretation. The film studio said in response to the AMC letter that it “absolutely” believes in the theatrical experience and “have made no statement to the contrary.”
“Our goal in releasing ‘Trolls: World Tour'” on demand “was to deliver entertainment to people who are sheltering at home, while movie theatres and other forms of outside entertainment are unavailable,” a Universal spokesperson said in a statement. “Based on the enthusiastic response to the film, we believe we made the right move.”
The company said that it expects to release future films directly to theaters going forward, as well as on-demand “when that distribution outlet makes sense.” It added that it looks forward to having “additional private conversations with our exhibition partners” and it was disappointed in the attempt “to confuse our position and our actions.”