Regal Owner Joins in Blasting Universal for Window Strategy

Regal theater chain owner Cineworld April 29 added its voice to criticism of Universal over its strategy to break traditional theatrical windows, boosted by the success of the studio’s premium VOD release of Trolls World Tour.

“We make it clear again that we will not be showing movies that fail to respect the windows as it does not make any economic sense for us,” read the Cineworld release.

In its criticism, Cineworld followed AMC Theatres, which April 28 vowed not to show Universal films because of the studio’s stance. On the heels of Trolls World Tour generating upwards of $100 million from its premium video-on-demand release, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell April 28 told The Wall Street Journal the studio would pursue a simultaneous theatrical/home entertainment release strategy going forward.

“The results for Trolls World Tour exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell said. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”

Like AMC, Cineworld reasserted its support for a window and scolded Universal.

“Cineworld and Regal’s policy with respect to the window is clear, well known in the industry and is part of our commercial deal with our movie suppliers,” read the press release. “We invest heavily in our cinemas across the globe and this allows the movie studios to provide customers all around the world the opportunity to watch movies in the best experience. 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. Universal’s move is completely inappropriate and certainly has nothing to do with good faith business practice, partnership and transparency.”

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The press release noted that Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger approached Comcast chairman Brian Roberts on March 19, after the Trolls World Tour PVOD announcement, and told him: “Nice words from your team are worthless if we cannot trust you as a partner. The message that the media has portrayed is: ‘Hollywood breaks the window’ — well, this is not true! All our partners called us in a timely manner and told us that in the current situation they want to shorten the window for movies that were already released as cinemas are closing. Most importantly, they all reassured us that there will be no change to their window policy once the cinema business returned. Unfortunately I missed a similar message in Universal’s announcement… not only did Universal provide no commitment for the future window — but 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.”

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The release went on to say the company “was always open to showing any movie as long as the rules were kept and not changed by one-sided moves.”

“We have full confidence in the industry’s current business model,” the release read. “No one should forget that the theatrical side of this industry generated an all-time record income of $42 billion last year and the movie distributors’ share of this was about $20 billion.”

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