EXCLUSIVE: Following yesterday’s flurry of dramatic exchanges involving AMC, the National Association of Theatre Owners and Universal, Regal Entertainment owner Cineworld Group has now added its voice to the chorus of windows controversy surrounding Trolls World Tour. The world’s second biggest circuit says its policy with respect to the window “is clear, well known in the industry and is part of our commercial deal with our movie suppliers… We make it clear again that we will not be showing movies that fail to respect the windows.” Cineworld also calls Universal’s decision to opt for a PVOD release on the DreamWorks Animation sequel, “completely inappropriate,” adding that it “certainly has nothing to do with good faith business practice, partnership and transparency.” (See full statement below.)
Today’s news comes after AMC boss Adam Aron yesterday fired off a letter to Universal Studios Chairman Donna Langley in response to NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell’s statements in the Wall Street Journal regarding the $95M PVOD success of Trolls World Tour. Shell had told the paper, “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats,” indicating a day-and-date theatrical-VOD shift.
This prompted Aron to shoot back, “Going forward, AMC will not license any Universal movies in any of our 1,000 theatres globally on these terms.” And that goes for AMC sites in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. Aron extended the sentiment to “any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that as distributor and exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes.”
Ahead of the AMC chief’s letter, NATO had smacked Universal for its chest-thumping over Trolls 2, and then Universal released its own statement, suggesting NATO was in cahoots with AMC over the chain’s refusal to play its titles.
The studio’s missive said they “absolutely believe in the theatrical experience and made no statement to the contrary.” But, added Uni, “As we stated earlier, going forward, we expect to release future films directly to theatres, as well as on PVOD when that distribution outlet makes sense.”
Universal ended its note expressing disappointment in “this seemingly coordinated attempt from AMC and NATO to confuse our position and our actions.”
Here is Cineworld’s statement in full from today:
Cineworld’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. We invest heavily in our cinemas across the globe and this allows the movie studios to provide customers all around the world to watch the 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.
Mooky Greidinger, Cineworld’s CEO approached Brian Roberts, the Chairman of Comcast, back in 19th of March (after Universal announced that Trolls 2 would be released in breach of the window) and told him among other things that:
“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 timely manner and told us that in the current situation they want to shorten 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 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”.
Cineworld’s roots go back 90 years in the industry and it was always open to showing any movie as long as the rules were kept and not changed by one sided moves. Today 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.
We have full confidence in the industry’s current business model. 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.