clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NBCUniversal CEO defended his comments about ‘Trolls World Tour’ after AMC, Universal scandal

The battle between Universal and AMC continues

(from left) Legsly (Ester Dean), Guy Diamond (Kunal Nayyar), Tiny Diamond (Kenan Thompson), Smidge (Walt Dohrn), Biggie (James Corden), Mr. Dinkles (Kevin Michael Richardson), Satin (Aino Jawo) and Chenille (Caroline Hjelt) in DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour, directed by Walt Dohrn.
Legsly (Ester Dean), from left, Guy Diamond (Kunal Nayyar), Tiny Diamond (Kenan Thompson), Smidge (Walt Dohrn), Biggie (James Corden), Mr. Dinkles (Kevin Michael Richardson), Satin (Aino Jawo) and Chenille (Caroline Hjelt) in DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls World Tour,” directed by Walt Dohrn.
Universal Studios

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell didn’t back down from his previous comments that movies will shift to on-demand platforms in a new interview Thursday.

What’s the news:

  • Shell — who made headlines earlier this week by suggesting Universal and Comcast will release films on digital release and theaters — said in an earnings call Thursday that on demand will be a part of the equation moving forward, according to Deadline.
  • He said: “The question is when we come out of this (pandemic), what is going to be the model? I would expect that consumers will return to the theaters and we will be part of that. And I also expect that PVOD is going to be a part of that in some way. It’s not a replacement, it’s going to be a complementary element. We’re just going to have to see how long that takes and where it takes us.”
  • Shell said: “But the flip side is the majority of our movies, whether we like it or not, are being consumed at home. It’s not realistic to assume that we’re not going to change, that this part of the business isn’t going to change like all parts of the business are going to change.”
  • Shell said Universal had to either delay films, sell them to different studios, move them to streaming or release them through digital means, according to CNN’s Frank Pallotta.

What happened:

Earlier this week, Shell told The Wall Street Journal that Comcast and Universal hope to release new films in movie theaters and paid on-demand platforms in the future due to the success of “Trolls World Tour,” which was pulled from theaters because of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Shell said: “The results for ‘Trolls World Tour’ have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD.”

In response, AMC Theaters told Universal that it would no longer show any Comcast or Universal film in theaters. AMC Theaters chairman-CEO Adam Aron called the decision “unacceptable.”

  • Aron wrote: “This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theaters reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat. Incidentally, this policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, it also extends 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.”

Universal responded to AMC’s decision, saying that the company believes “in the theatrical experience and have made no statement to the contrary. As we stated earlier, going forward, we expect to release future films directly to theaters, as well as on PVOD when that distribution outlet makes sense. We look forward to having additional private conversations with our exhibition parters but are disappointed by this seemingly coordinated attempt from AMC and NATO to confuse our positions and our actions.”

The National Association of Theatre Owners slammed Universal as well, saying the company “has a destructive tendency to both announce decisions affecting their exhibitor partners without actually consulting with those partners, and now of making unfounded accusations without consulting with their partners.”