Coronavirus: Odeon-owner bans Universal films in Trolls home movie row

Trolls World Tour

Dreamworks

Numerous biggest tentpole films originally scheduled to hit theaters in 2020, like Wonder Woman 1984, the James Bond adventure No Time to Die, and the entirety of Marvel Studios' Phase 4 lineup, have simply been delayed in hopes that they can be released to packed theaters after the industry resumes business as usual. The Theater chain's CEO announced the ban in a letter to Universal's chairman Tuesday.

In the case of Trolls World Tour, that means Universal made $77 million in revenue from $95 million in rental fees.

Still, while the release of Trolls World Tour may have been a win for humanity, it may have poisoned the well for the future of cinema.

With almost 5 million rentals, the digital release has in three weeks generated more revenue for Universal than the original "Trolls" did during its five-month theatrical run, according to an anonymous source cited by the Journal on Tuesday. With best picture nominees going right to Netflix and the Oscars just yesterday saying that movies don't need a theatrical release to be nominated this year, it could very well be that the coronavirus is what changes theaters and movie-watching forever.

In comparison, the film's 2016 predecessor, Trolls, earned a total of $153.7 million for the entire five months of its domestic box office run.

Raking in around $100 million in its first three weeks in the United States alone, Trolls World Tour made Universal realise that it might not need cinemas as much as it thought. Nearly five million people rented the movie.

Earlier, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell told WSJ said that the second Trolls film had "exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD".

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John Fithian, chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners, accused the film company of using the pandemic to alter the existing release structure.

Aron went on to clarify that any filmmaking studio who decides to change the current status quo regarding release windows would face a similar response.

Cineworld, owner of the Regal Entertainment exhibition chain, is joining AMC Theatres in refusing to play any Universal Pictures films in the wake of NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell's promise to open titles on premium VOD and in theaters concurrently.

As innocuous as the rainbow-colored, music-blaring animated movie may seem, the digital release into homes of "Trolls World Tour" has caused a tempestuous storm to course through the movie industry.

He added that the policy is "not some hollow or ill-considered threat" and will apply to "any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes".

Late Tuesday, Universal responded it was disappointed with the AMC and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation statements. The studio says it believes in the theatrical experience but wants to release future films on-demand when it makes sense.

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