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Begun The Troll Wars Have: NATO Responds To AMC-Universal Feud

There’s a feud between AMC and Universal — and guess who the poster child is?

Who would have thought a kids’ movie like Trolls World Tour would become the center of an industry-wide feud? If you’d told me in December of 2019 that this would be the case, I would have laughed you. But it is almost fitting. The original Trolls film was a delightful little movie that helped me escape the terrible-ness of the U.S. political race in 2016. So, why shouldn’t its sequel become mired in a different kind of awful power struggle? 

In case you haven’t heard, Universal opted to effectively circumvent theaters for Trolls World Tour. This was originally a movie that was set to hit theaters prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, rather than push it, Universal released the movie on VOD. To make matters worse, the movie actually performed very well. It raked in nearly $100 million in VOD orders. No, that isn’t anywhere near the $346.9 million the first Trolls movie made in theaters. However, Trolls World Tour’s revenue to the studio exceeded that of the first movie.

AMC Theatres was quick to speak out against Universal, prohibiting the release of future Universal movies. Now NATO, the National Association of Theatre Owners published a letter. Let’s just say they’re not very happy with Universal’s actions and remain unconvinced that times are a-changing.

RELATED – AMC Theaters Threatened By Trolls World Tour VOD Success, Refuses To Show Future Universal Films

“This performance is indicative of hundreds of millions of people isolated in their homes seeking entertainment, not a shift in consumer movie viewing preferences,” the statement said. “It is not surprising that people under shelter-in-home ordinances for weeks on end with increasingly limited entertainment options would take advantage of the movie’s direct-to-VOD move to keep children entertained, even at a premium price.”

NATO then derided Universal for its marketing, which had Trolls World Tour marketed as a theatrical release. 

“That is unlikely to recur in normal times, and those costs haven’t been disclosed. While Universal may be pleased with the PVOD results of Trolls World Tour, this outcome should not be interpreted as a sign of a ‘new normal’ for Hollywood.”

The next paragraph from NATO president and CEO John Fithian is the real kicker for me. It really drives home the desperation of the theaters.

“Universal does not have reason to use unusual circumstances in an unprecedented environment as a springboard to bypass true theatrical releases,” he said. “Theaters provide a beloved immersive, shared experience that cannot be replicated – an experience that many of the VOD viewers of this film would have participated in had the world not been sequestered at home, desperate for something new to watch with their families. We are confident that when theaters reopen, studios will continue to benefit from the global theatrical box office, followed by traditional home release.”

RELATED – The Future Is Now: Trolls World Tour Did WAY Better On VOD Than The First Film Did In Theaters

I mostly don’t like the first part of that statement. They’re basically saying that Universal should not have experimented because of…reasons. I also hate the term “true theatrical releases.” Over the past few weeks, NATO and co. have really pushed to tell studios that audiences want the theatrical experience. While they may ultimately be right, I think the ones who should decide that are viewers themselves.

Yes, perhaps the success of Trolls World Tour is a byproduct of the pandemic, but times are also changing. Personally, I have no interest in industries clinging on to unprofitable and outdated practices. The fact that Trolls World Tour made more money than Trolls in spite of bringing in fewer actual dollars is an indication that the current system isn’t ideal. Rather than try and drive home the need for things to stay the same, why not adapt to the changing circumstances?

But I can understand one thing NATO chastised Universal for. They apparently didn’t discuss this with theater owners. While it’s not a necessity — Universal is its own company, after all — it is kind of a dick move. At the very least, they should give them the heads-up before they make such a big industry-changing move.

NATO wrote: “Unfortunately Universal has a destructive tendency to both announce decisions affecting their exhibitor partners without actually consulting with those partners…”

You’ll be hearing more from me on this subject later today. That being said, it’s fair to say, “begun the Troll Wars have.”

How do you feel about this AMC and Universal feud? Sound off down below!

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SOURCE: Deadline

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