Are AMC Theatres and Universal Really Headed to All-Out War Over On-Demand Releases?

Analysts warn that blocking tentpole films from theaters to defend day-and-date won’t do theaters or studios much good

Can Universal Pictures and AMC Theatres pull back from the brink of all-out war after tensions over the VOD release of “Trolls World Tour” — and the threat of more day-and-date releases of new movies in theaters and for home release — escalated to nuclear level in no time flat?

The conflict is real — with potentially huge financial consequences for both sides as the nation’s largest movie theater chain announced Tuesday it would stop playing all Universal films in its cinemas worldwide, while the studio insisted it was committed to theatrical releases and accused the exhibitor of trying to “confuse our position and our actions.” On parent company Comcast’s earnings call on Thursday, NBCUniversal Jeff Shell said he sees VOD as a “complementary element,” not a “replacement” for theatrical releases — but did not address whether the studio intended to place movies simultaneously in theaters and home entertainment platforms or shrink the current window of roughly thee months. However, he warned, “It’s not realistic to assume that we’re not gonna change.”

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Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter • • Twitter: @jeremyfuster