AMC Theatres CEO Doubles Down Banning Universal Movies

AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron remains adamant the nation’s largest theatrical chain will not screen Universal Pictures movies when it re-opens — following the coronavirus pandemic shutdown — in select locations on July 15.

The chain and studio have been embroiled in a dispute after NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said Universal theatrical releases going forward would also entertain direct-to-consumer distribution on launch day — thus upending the traditional exclusive 90-day theatrical window. That move came after scuttled theatrical release Trolls World Tour generated $100 million from premium VOD in the home in just three weeks.

In an June 18 interview with CNN Business, Aron was asked if pending Universal sequels such as Fast & Furious 9, Jurassic World: Dominion and Minions: The Rise of Gru would be banned from AMC.

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“Yes, assuming we can’t have discussions with Universal that solve our concerns,” Aron said. “Remember, AMC has been showing Universal movies happily and profitably for decades. We didn’t change the status quo, and we didn’t actually have any protest about Trolls at all. We understood that our theaters were shut, that they have a business to run, and that they felt they needed to take Trolls to the home rather than waiting.”

Aron says his concern revolves around Universal’s decision to ignore the theatrical window and screen movies in theaters and via home entertainment concurrently.

“If they take movies to the home and theaters at the same time, they’re the ones who are changing the status quo and they would make it unprofitable for us to play Universal movies in our theaters,” Aron said.

The executive said his April letter to Universal Pictures  Chairwoman Donna Langley underscored the fact the studio — not AMC — had broken the business relationship between the two companies, and would force the exhibitor to “come up” with a new business relationship.

“We’re in active dialog with Universal now,” Aron said. “We’ll see where that leads, but it is our current plan not to show Universal movies if we can’t do so profitably.”

Langley in April said the studio “absolutely believe[s]” in the theatrical “experience” and 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,” she said. “We look forward to having additional private conversations with our exhibition partners, but are disappointed by this seemingly coordinated attempt from AMC and [National Association of Theatre Owners] to confuse our position and our actions.”

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