Hollywood news banter: Universal and AMC battle over theatrical windows

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On April 10, Universal made “Trolls World Tour” available to purchase through video on demand. The kid-friendly sequel was supposed to play in theaters, but with COVID-19 making that impossible, Universal figured parents would pay for their kids to have a new movie to watch while stuck at home. 

 NBCUniversal Jeff Shell told the Wall Street Journal that the film brought in $100 million, and those numbers “exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD (premium video on demand).”

Movie theater owners were not happy that Shell hinted he’d look to do more on-demand releases in the future. In response, AMC Theatres said they won’t play any Universal films in their theaters.  

That seems like quite a threat, but AMC isn’t playing movies at all right now. What Shell is likely looking for is the ability to experiment. Typically movie theaters demand an exclusive, three-month-long theatrical window before a film is made available to rent. 

On the Universal side, there’s also the question of whether the studio actually made money on the VOD release of “Trolls World Tour.” $100 million seems like a lot, but the film likely cost more than $90 million to make and almost $40 million to market. Those tight margins are the reason you won’t see the next “Fast and Furious” or “Minions” movie go straight to streaming. For billion dollar franchises, studios want their share of the box office and will wait for theaters to reopen, even if that’s more than a year from now. 




Kim Masters


Kaitlin Parker