Arts & Entertainment

Cinema chains and Universal Studios clash over online releases

Los Angeles, US, Apr 29 (efe-epa).- Universal Studios’ plan to release its movies directly online, rather than exclusively in cinemas, has sparked controversy among major cinema owners who threaten to stop screening the company’s titles.

The latest film company to join the discussion is Cineworld Group, the second largest in the world with 10,000 screens in Europe and the United States, which said in a statement on Wednesday that it “won’t be showing movies that fail to respect the windows” between cinema release date and internet launch.

Earlier, the largest US cinema chain, AMC, warned that it would not screen Universal films again if the film studio decided to keep releasing movies online.

“This radical change by Universal to the business model that currently exists between our two companies represents nothing but downside for us and is categorically unacceptable to AMC Entertainment,” said AMC President Adam Aron in a statement.

“Going forward, AMC will not license any Universal movies in any of our 1,000 theaters globally on these terms,” he added.

Both messages referred to a statement by NBCUniversal President Jeff Shell, who said that “as soon as the cinemas reopen,” they expect to release their films in both cinemas and directly on the internet.

Until now, the film industry has had a rigid system known as the “distribution window” that set a three-month period between when a movie hit the big screen and when it arrives in homes.

It was a system that worked for releases on DVD, VHS and other physical formats before web streaming was introduced.

This protocol has been altered by the coronavirus crisis, which has led to the closure of cinemas in most parts of the world and forced the release of new films on the internet that had just arrived at the box office, with an average price of $20, the equivalent of just over two cinema tickets in the US.

While most upcoming film releases have been postponed, Universal decided to launch its directly online its animated film “Trolls 2: World Tour,” which has exceeded expectations and grossed over $100 million.

Universal’s announcement and its claim that it will replace the distribution film model didn’t please the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) either.

“Universal does not have reason to use unusual circumstances in an unprecedented environment as a springboard to bypass true theatrical releases,” said NATO president, John Fithian.

“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,” Fithian added.

In response, Universal defended that they “absolutely believe in the theatrical experience and have made no statement to the contrary,” and added that they “expect to release future films directly to theaters, as well as on PVOD when that distribution outlet makes sense.”

All these movements are taking place in a film industry still in “shock” because of the effects that the coronavirus may have, as even the Oscars have modified their rules only for this year, allowing films not screened in cinemas to compete. EFE-EPA


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