UPDATED, 2:23 PM: We hear from exhibition sources that it was the filmmakers behind The King of Staten Island who wanted to keep the movie as a premium VOD release, and not a simultaneous PVOD-theatrical release this weekend. Apparently, this whole snafu had nothing to do with Universal’s stiff terms with exhibitors. One indie exhibitor tells us that Universal’s terms on King of Staten Island were “generous” with around 60% going back to the theater. I hear that Universal went about booking the film like it did with Trolls World Tour, and then changed its mind at the last minute after consulting the filmmakers.
The reason why the whole “stiff terms” thing seemed odd is because Universal, more than any other studio right now, has the most feature product out there on screens including Trolls World Tour, Invisible Man, The Hunt and Focus Features’ High Note.
PREVIOUSLY, 12:31 PM: We hear there’s no there there in regard to this news, but Universal had originally booked The King of Staten Island in around 100 theaters (there’s close to 988 open this weekend), and then changed its mind at the last minute and pulled back the release, keeping it strictly relegated to its PVOD drop Friday.
A studio source says about the booking of the Judd Apatow-directed Pete Davidson movie, “It was a misunderstanding, and we asked for those theaters that had booked it, not to play it.”
Meanwhile, Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour remains in release on both PVOD and played about 200 theaters last weekend. I’m told that was a different deal with whichever exhibitors were open — to have that pic play on screen and in home — while King of Staten Island was strictly a PVOD release.
Apatow corrected fans on Twitter who believed the movie, inspired by Davidson’s life, was in play at their local theaters. “It won’t be playing there,” he wrote. “It is a mistake. It is only on VOD.”
Variety heard from drive-in exhibitors that Universal was asking for steep terms in the current COVID-19 environment in which most big exhibs including AMC, Cinemark and Regal remain shut down. AMC, after saying that it would block all Universal releases should they continue to commit to a simultaneous PVOD and wide theatrical release, mentioned in its earnings call that the company remains in talks with the studio.
Again, the only odd thing in all of this is, how much could Universal have been asking theaters for on King of Staten Island? Trolls World Tour remains booked at movie theaters and likely will be No. 1 again this weekend in its 10th weekend after collecting $3 million from the handful of theaters that weathered the coronavirus shutdown.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.