AMC Rips NATO In Org’s James Murdoch Spat: “Condescending And Gratuitous”

Adam Aron, CEO and President, AMC Entertainment has weighed in on the spat between the National Association of Theatre Owners and Fox CEO James Murdoch:

“The theatrical window is a longstanding industry practice that has benefited studios, theatres and moviegoers. We all should tread lightly and be mindful that over the years, the film industry’s success is a direct result of a highly successful collaboration between film makers, distributors and exhibitors. Change should be taken only wisely. Even so, carefully considered reform is always worth evaluating in any number of areas. Accordingly, AMC is willing to work with Fox and our other studio partners to intelligently do what we can to help improve studio profitability and ensure that filmmakers continue to have the freedom to captivate moviegoers, all the while ensuring that the enormous investment by theatre operators can continue to be prudently made and rewarded. This approach benefits studios, exhibitors and most importantly movie fans who delight in watching film as it was meant to be seen — on the big screen. Our aim is clear: Theatres across the continent continue to be superb guest-pleasing vehicles that incomparably showcase movie-making magic.”

“We wish NATO had said only that in its statement, which we saw only after its public issuance. Instead, however, NATO’s statement was condescending and gratuitous in its affronts aimed at the CEO of 21st Century Fox. The unnecessary tone of NATO’s response is not consistent with AMC’s view about how business should be conducted. In the clearest possible language, all of us at AMC have nothing but the most profound respect and appreciation for all that James Murdoch, members of his family and his colleagues at Fox have done over decades to delight moviegoers the world over. May our partnership continue in this spirit for decades to come.”

It’s alarming to see a major chain publicly ding its trade organization, but it’s not surprising to hear AMC’s opinion. Murdoch’s call for a change-up in the theatrical-to-home entertainment window isn’t an unusual industry declaration: Paramount was experimenting with this nearly a year ago with its genre releases of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. Par essentially debuted the films in select theaters, and after a certain wide-release run, would segue the titles within a shortened amount of days to VOD. AMC was one of the few chains that Paramount cut in on the VOD share deal.  It’s highly questionable if it was a success for either party. Some mom and pop exhibitors cried that they didn’t see any VOD earnings back after participating in Paramount’s experiment. Furthermore with their shortened wide releases, both titles died at the B.O. with Scouts earning $3.7M and Ghost Dimension making $18.3M.

Back in March there was buzz that AMC signed a letter of intent with Sean Parker’s controversial Screening Room pitch; a concept that was so beaten down by the industry at CinemaCon, that news of its longevity thereafter quickly disappeared.  AMC is owned by China’s Dailan Wanda Group, and the notion has been that the theater chain is the most open to a change-up in theatrical to VOD windows given the fertile opportunity for streaming in the Middle Kingdom.

In an April, Aron on an AMC earnings call said that he wasn’t ready to comment on the Screening Room at the time, but was “willing to talk with our studio partners about being creative around the edges of windows” while acknowledging “windows are important and AMC still believes in windows.”

Related Screening Room Sparks A Flurry (And Fury) Of Opinions Leading Into CinemaCon

For some majors, a shortened window is about cutting down the marketing costs between a theatrical and home entertainment release. Quite often after a film fails in the marketplace, a studio needs to re-introduce the title to consumers in the post-theatrical space. Studios arguing for shortened windows believe it only should be executed on certain types of films — not the four-quad tentpoles, but the smaller genre and indie films that cater to specific demographics.

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