Universal scrambled to scrub Pete Davidson and Judd Apatow’s new comedy “The King of Staten Island” from theaters — mainly drive-ins — after the film was mistakenly booked at roughly 100 theaters across the country.
An individual familiar with the mix up said that Universal booked “The King of Staten Island” in a limited number of theaters, like it had done for “Trolls World Tour,” which premiered on streaming in April.
Once executives realized the mishap, even though Apatow’s film was intended to only go on streaming, they pulled it from the theaters at which it had been booked.
The film, which is based on what Davidson’s life could have been like had he not become a comedian — the SNL cast member is from Staten Island, New York — is meant to be a “love letter” to Davidson’s mother, as well as a tribute to his late firefighter father who died responding to the attacks on 9/11.
Universal made the decision for the film to bypass theaters back in April after the industry and exhibitors were all but forced to shut down operation as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“The King of Staten Island” was originally supposed to open in theaters on June 19 after it was meant to debut at the SXSW Film Festival, which was also cancelled.
The film dropped for streaming via a premium video on demand release on Friday. A couple of days prior a site called MovieFilm Biz reported that it actually would be in theaters — picking up on the mistake bookings.
Apatow tweeted that it was simply an error and tried to clear up the confusion.
“THIS IS AN ERROR. THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND IS ONLY OPENING ON VOD FRIDAY. IT IS NOT OPENING IN THEATERS,” Apatow tweeted on Tuesday.
Universal has been a pioneer in releasing films solely on streaming platforms and foregoing a traditional theatrical release, especially in the midst of the global pandemic.
In April the studio found itself in a tiff with AMC Theatres and other exhibitors after NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell told The Wall Street Journal that the success of “Trolls World Tour’s” release, “demonstrated the viability of PVOD” and could lead them to “release movies on both formats.”
AMC made the decision to essentially blacklist Universal after comments by Shell in a Wall Street Journal story published Tuesday morning that reported that “Trolls World Tour” made $95 million in digital rentals in the 19 days since its release.