Cineworld and AMC are refusing to screen Universal films over Trolls World Tour controversy

Trolls World Tour, photo courtesy Universal Pictures
Trolls World Tour, photo courtesy Universal Pictures /

Following NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell’s comments about the success of Trolls World Tour, both AMC Theaters and Cineworld are refusing to screen the studio’s films.

Of all the things to come out of the current health crisis, the ongoing dispute between movie theaters and Universal Pictures over the success of Trolls World Tour is probably one of the most bizarre and unexpected developments, but here we are. If you haven’t been following the recent drama, Trolls World Tour was released straight to VOD after movie theaters nationwide closed their doors — and given that families are stuck inside, it’s probably no surprise that the film saw success, raking in over $100 million in North America.

When NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell spoke to the Wall Street Journal about the film’s earnings, however — and about the studio rethinking theatrical releases for some of its future films — AMC Theaters quickly responded by saying the chain would no longer be showing movies from Universal Pictures. This came as a surprise to many, as it’s hard to imagine the largest movie chain in the world not showing blockbusters like Jurassic World 3 and Fast and the Furious 9 once they reopen.

And it seems AMC isn’t the only company that’s been upset by Shell’s comments. Cineworld, which owns Regal movie theaters, followed AMC’s lead today, stating that they too would be refusing to screen films from Universal Pictures. According to Deadline, Cineworld released a statement, claiming that “Universal’s move is completely inappropriate and certainly has nothing to do with good faith business practice, partnership, and transparency.”

At this rate, Universal Pictures will be barred from showcasing its films in any of the major theater chains — though it’s hard to imagine the companies not coming to some sort of compromise when things settle down.

Universal has already attempted to make up for Shell’s statement, responding to AMC’s refusal to feature its movies by saying that the studio “absolutely believe[s] in the theatrical experience and made no statement to the contrary.” The studio went on to explain that it intends to continue with theatrical releases and experiment with VOD releases “when that distribution outlet makes sense.” Unfortunately, it’s unclear if that promise will be enough to ease AMC and Cineworld’s concerns.

With any luck, the theater chains and Universal Pictures will reach an understanding that allows moviegoers to experience Universal blockbusters on the big screen still. If not, it’s very possible we’ll see a shift when it comes to release formats that may not be to everyone’s liking.

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Do you think a mixture of theatrical and straight-to-VOD releases is the right path for movie studios? Or do you think they should stick to theatrical releases? Sound off in the comments below.