30 Apr – Earlier this month, "Trolls World Tour" made its premiere on digital platforms after an earlier limited theatrical release in several markets, such as Malaysia and Singapore, since movie exhibitors across the globe have started temporary shutdown by then due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
It turned out to be a good move for the animated sequel, as it managed to make more money for Universal Pictures in just three weeks compared to its predecessor, "Trolls", when the latter was released in cinemas back in 2016.
However, "Trolls World Tour's" digital release is also rocking the US film industry in a less positive way. Specifically, film exhibitors are unhappy with Universal's move of going online instead of postponing the movie's screening in cinemas to a later date.
AMC Theatres was the first to speak out against the distributor's decision. AMC boss Adam Aron said in a statement, as per The Hollywood Reporter, that he was disappointed by Universal CEO Jeff Shell's earlier comment to The Wall Street Journal regarding the sequel's success despite no theatrical release.
"Jeff's comments as to Universal's unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice," Aron said. "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."
Shell later released a statement in response to Aron, 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 when that distribution outlet makes sense.
"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."
Despite that, another major US cinema chain, the Cineworld-owned Regal Cinemas, has today announced that it will be following AMC's move of banning Universal titles. Collider reported that Regal has issued a statement calling the digital release as "completely inappropriate and certainly has nothing to do with good faith business practice, partnership and transparency."
"There is no argument that the big screen is the best way to watch a movie. Universal unilaterally chose to break our understanding and did so at the height of the COVID-19 crisis when our business is closed, more than 35,000 employees are at home and when we do not yet have a clear date for the reopening of our cinemas," the statement read.
Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger was also quoted as saying "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."
It remains to be seen whether Universal will issue another statement and if other cinema chains will follow suit in banning any titles by the distributor.