Cineworld, owner of the Regal Entertainment exhibition chain, is joining AMC Theatres in refusing to play Universal Pictures films in the wake of NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell’s promise to open titles on premium VOD and in theaters concurrently.
“Universal’s move is completely inappropriate and certainly has nothing to do with good faith business practice, partnership and transparency,” Cineworld said.
Cineworld made the announcement on Wednesday, a day after AMC Theatres said it won’t screen Universal titles. The moves are in response to Shell’s claim that “as soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”
“The results for ‘Trolls World Tour’ have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell said.
“Trolls World Tour” went on sale as a 48-hour rental for $19.99. Prior to the pandemic, studios typically waited 90 days after a theatrical opening to release films digitally. “Trolls World Tour” took in $100 million in premium VOD rentals in its first three weeks of play in North America.
Cineword indicated that its ban on Universal titles applies only to films that are being released earlier than the typical 90-day period: “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.”
Regal has 7,211 screens in 549 theatres in 42 states. It’s the second-largest North American chain after AMC.
“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,” the company said. “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.”
If AMC and Cineworld follow through, they will potentially forego showing a number of potential Universal hits such as “F9,” the latest iteration in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, due out April 2, 2021; “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” opening on July 2, 2021; “Sing 2,” set for Dec. 22, 2021; and “Jurassic World: Dominion,” currently scheduled for a June 2021 launch.
“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,” the company said. “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.”
The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.