Universal Pictures vs. AMC Theatres

Pictured: "Universal Pictures" Color Logo (Photo by: Universal Pictures)

Universal Pictures and AMC Theatres are in somewhat of a stand-off following recent comments made as a result of the Trolls: World Tour release.

If you recall, Universal decided to release Trolls: World Tour as a Premium Video on Demand title.  Not surprisingly, the theaters were upset at the decision because the film had been advertised for months as a theatrical release.  At the same time, families were essentially stuck at home while theaters were shut down.

While Universal decided to release the film on schedule, other studios mostly postponed their films until later.  Meanwhile, Disney decided to move Artemis Fowl from a theatrical release to Disney+.  As of right now, it’s the only film being released on the streamer.  Warner Bros. is releasing Scoob in May for viewers to watch at home.  STX decided to forgo a theatrical release for My Spy and now the film will be on Amazon Prime at some point.  It’s still unknown if My Spy will see a theatrical release.  The Lovebirds was unloaded by Paramount Pictures and will be released in May on Netflix.

None of the other studios are hearing complaints from NATO because they’re all respecting the traditional theatrical window.  For the last several years, the window has been ninety days.  However, some studios want to break the window and get films into homes earlier.  Or in some instances, on the same day of release.  Is this the right answer?  I don’t know.  What I can tell you is that I’m not paying more than $10 to watch a new release at home.  Why would I pay $19.99 for a new release rental when I can watch the same film–on a bigger screen–in theaters.

The latest war of the words in press statements is that AMC has decided against screening any Universal Pictures releases in their theaters.  Universal decided to come out with a statement that said that they still support the theatrical window but will support PVOD when that distribution outlet makes sense.  In the meantime, AMC is likely on the verge of bankruptcy.  This is a shame in its own right when you look at cinema history.  While AMC was founded in 1920, they merged with Loews Cineplex Entertainment in 2006.  Yes, the same Loews that was founded by Marcus Loew back on June 23, 1904.  Loews was the oldest operating chain at the time.  It’s very well possible that AMC might not even exist later this year depending on how long theaters are shuttered.

I can understand why theater owners are upset.  At the same time, I can also understand the argument coming from Universal.  I simply don’t think PVOD is the answer.  It may be one thing for a family of four to pay $19.99 to watch a new release over 48 hours at home.  Families are going to save money when it comes to PVOD.  On the other hand, you have single people living alone–such as myself–that can’t justify renting a new release for well over the cost of what we would pay in theaters.  There has to be a better solution.

Next up for Universal Pictures is The King of Staten Island on PVOD in June.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.