NBCUniversal is feeling pretty good right about now after the successful on-demand release of Trolls World Tour, which once again features music from Justin Timberlake. In its first three weeks after releasing amid the pandemic, it was reported that an estimated $100 million was made by the movie. This led to the company's CEO, Jeff Shell, saying that this just shows how viable going straight to on-demand can be for future releases.
Shell took it a step further when he added, "As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.” This is a step that some companies have taken already, including Disney releasing Artemis Fowl straight to its streaming service later this year. His message was heard loud and clearly by AMC Theatres chair-CEO Adam Aron. A letter was directed to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley in which Aron expressed his frustration in Shell's comments. "It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice," the message began. "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."
The statement, as captured by Deadline, goes on to say that this rule will go into play starting immediately. Aron wanted to make it clear that this was not some "hollow or ill-considered threat." He also made it clear that this action will only be taken on Universal properties but that it can extend to any other company that abandons the status quo. "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."
This threat could mean a major impact on some of the company's biggest upcoming films, including F9 and Halloween Kills. The next installment in the Fast and the Furious franchise is set to hit theaters in April 2021. The film pushed the date back in March due to the coronavirus, writing in their message that "it's especially tough" to come to that decision. Halloween Kills will be dropping before F9 in October as the slasher film will continue the Michael Myers legacy. Unless a resolution is met by October, it appears viewers will need to head to another movie theater. All of this comes as AMC is facing some serious pressure amid the pandemic, announcing at the end of March they would be furloughing 600 employees across the company.