Cinemas owned by chain AMC Theatres will no longer play Universal Pictures films once coronavirus restrictions end, CEO Adam Aron has said.
The boycott follows Universal boss Jeff Shell’s Tuesday announcement that the studio will release films in theatres and on streaming platforms simultaneously once cinemas re-open.
The change in distribution policy follows the success of kids film Trolls World Tour, which was released earlier this month on video on-demand due to COVID-19 cinema closures. The musical sequel took an estimated $100 million from premium on-demand rentals.
In a letter to Universal chairman Donna Langley, published by The Hollywood Reporter, Aron stated that Shell’s comments were “disappointing”, “unacceptable” and “left [AMC] with no choice”.
“Effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theatres in the United States, Europe or the Middle East,” he wrote.
The ban will be enforced by UK cinema chain Odeon, which was acquired by AMC Theatres in 2016. The company currently owns 244 cinemas across Europe in addition to 661 across America.
Universal responded to AMC’s measures by stating that Shell’s comments were misconstrued.
“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,” the statement said. “Our goal in releasing Trolls World Tour on PVOD was to deliver entertainment to people who are sheltering at home, while movie theatres and other forms of outside entertainment are unavailable.”
“Based on the enthusiastic response to the film, we believe we made the right move,” Universal added.
The ban could affect the postponed release of Bond film No Time To Die, The Boss Baby 2 (scheduled for March 2021) and Jurassic World: Dominion (June 2021).