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AMC and Regal Won’t Show Universal Films After the Studio Announces Plans to Continue On-Demand Releases

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  • Universal Pictures announced Tuesday that it would pursue dual theatrical and on-demand releases for new films even after movie theaters reopen. 
  • Shortly after that, AMC Theaters condemned Universal’s plan and immediately blacklisted all of the studio’s future films from its screens.
  • AMC CEO Adam Aron also accused Universal of having “zero concern” for how such a move would affect the theater chain’s revenue and viability.
  • Wednesday morning, Regal Entertainment said it would also blacklist Universal movies.
  • The moves by all three companies could result in a massive shift in the way Americans view movies and could be financially dangerous for all entities involved.

Universal Says It Will Continue On-Demand Releases

At the start of the year, many people probably wouldn’t have imagined that an animated film about troll dolls could ignite a war between a major movie studio and the world’s largest theater chain, but 2020 has proven itself unpredictable.

When movie theaters shut their doors in response to the coronavirus outbreaks in the United States, Universal Pictures decided to test on-demand releases for several of its new films, including Trolls World Tour. After seeing massive success with that film, Universal is now saying it will continue the practice once theaters reopen.

In turn, Adam Aron, CEO of AMC movie theaters, called the move “unacceptable” and said the chain has now blacklisted all Universal movies from airing on its screens. Wednesday morning, Regal Entertainment responded with a similar ban.

Universal, AMC, and Regal’s moves represent what could be massive shifts for the movie industry. Such moves also signal how the coronavirus pandemic might fundamentally change the way Americans consume entertainment.

Unlike movies such as F9, Black Widow, and Wonder Woman 1984, which were all postponed until either later this year or next year, Universal released the Trolls sequel through digital rental for $19.99.

While $20 is a steep price to pay for a rental, Universal argued the price was meant to compensate for the fact that the film didn’t see widespread release in theaters. Such a defense didn’t stop many on social media sites from criticizing the film’s price, but three weeks after its release, the film has proved to be an unprecedented success for Universal. It raked in nearly $100 million through on-demand 48-hour rentals. 

So far, that is still less than the nearly $154 million the first Trolls film made in the U.S. over five months in 2016; however, because movie theaters generally take about 50% of the box office revenue, Universal only took home around $77 million from the first Trolls film domestically.

By contrast, Universal has kept about 80% of what it made through renting Trolls World Tour. Notably, that means the sequel is already more profitable than the original film. 

“The results for ‘Trolls World Tour’ have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of [premium video on demand],” Jeff Shell, head of the film studio’s parent division, NBCUniversal, told The Wall Street Journal. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”

Universal has also reported a level of success by implementing the same on-demand strategy with movies like The Invisible Man, The Hunt, Emma, and Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Reportedly, they have generated around $60 million from rental fees, meaning $48 million of that has gone directly back to Universal. 

Before theaters shut down, The Invisible Man had brought in about $64 million in the U.S. and Canada. The other three had generated about $16 million, collectively. 

AMC and Regal Won’t Play ANY Universal Movies

Following Shell’s comments, Aron retaliated by saying that AMC, the largest movie theater chain in the world, would pull the plug on all movies from Universal.

“AMC believes that with this proposed action to go to the home and theatres simultaneously, Universal is breaking the business model and dealings between our two companies,” Aron wrote in a statement on Tuesday.

“It assumes that we will meekly accept a reshaped view of how studios and exhibitors should interact, with zero concern on Universal’s part as to how its actions affect us. It also presumes that Universal, in fact, can have its cake and eat it too, that Universal film product can be released to the home and theatres at the same time, without modification to the current economic arrangements between us.”

“It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice,” Aron added. “Therefore, effectively immediately, AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theatres in the United States, Europe or the Middle East.”

Wednesday, Regal Entertainment, the second largest theater chain in the world, called Universal’s decision “completely inappropriate” and said, “We make it clear again that we will not be showing movies that fail to respect the windows.”

Notably, that would mean AMC and Regal would not screen a host of films that are expected to be major box office hits, including F9, the James Bond film No Time to Die, and Jurassic World: Dominion. F9 alone is expected to bring in close to $1 billion worldwide, if not more, and crippling its theatrical release could prove to be a major blow for Universal. 

Still, these moves represent a precarious balance for both companies. Universal likely wants to continue its success from Trolls World Tour and adapt to what it believes is a more profitable model. Meanwhile, AMC and Regal want to retain their customer bases and are likely concerned that dual theatrical and on-demand film releases could hurt them. Despite that, not showing a major studio’s films could be a huge blow to the chains.

Still, Aron has double-downed on his statement and said it is “not some hollow or ill-considered threat.”

“Incidentally, this policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, Aron said. “It also extends to any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes.”

Universal’s announcement has also received the condemnation of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), which has argued that the success of Trolls World Tour is an outlier and not a new normal. 

“Universal does not have reason to use unusual circumstances in an unprecedented environment as a springboard to bypass true theatrical releases,” NATO president and CEO John Fithian said in a statement Tuesday. “Theaters provide a beloved immersive, shared experience that cannot be replicated—an experience that many of the 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.”

Part of NATO’s argument is that Trolls World Tour was released at a time when parents were desperate to provide entertainment for their children. That was likely aided by the fact that Trolls World Tour experienced very little competition, as many other studios chose to postpone new releases. 

Universal has since responded to the criticism lodged at it by AMC and NATO while reiterating its plan to implement dual theatrical and on-demand releases. 

“Our goal in releasing ‘Trolls World Tour’ on PVOD was to deliver entertainment to people who are sheltering at home, while movie theatres and other forms of outside entertainment are unavailable,” the company said in a statement. “Based on the enthusiastic response to the film, we believe we made the right move. In fact, given the choice of not releasing Trolls: World Tour, which would not only have prevented consumers from experiencing the movie but also negatively impacted our partners and employees, the decision was clear.”

“Our desire has always been to efficiently deliver entertainment to as wide an audience as possible,” the statement continued. “We absolutely believe in the theatrical experience and have made no statement to the contrary. As we stated earlier, going forward, we expect to release future films directly to theatres, as well as on PVOD when that distribution outlet makes sense.”

Universal also added that it looks forward to having “additional private conversations with our exhibition partners but are disappointed by this seemingly coordinated attempt from AMC and NATO to confuse our position and our actions.”

Other Film Studios Choose On-Demand or Streamable Releases

Universal is not the only studio choosing to go the on-demand route. Warner Bros. is planning to release Scoob! on May 15 with a $19.99 rental fee. Notably, it will also be available to buy right away for $24.99.

Other companies, such as Disney, have now shifted some of their movies to Disney+ instead of waiting for theaters to reopen. Artemis Fowl was originally scheduled for an Aug. 9 theatrical release, but the company will now release the film on its streaming service on June 12. Likewise, Disney also released Onward on Disney+ after its theatrical release was cut short. While those movies won’t be able to generate any direct revenue, Disney is hoping they drive the company’s $6.99 subscriptions.

Still, Disney seems to be saving its major releases like Mulan and Black Widow for theatrical releases.

In fact, even Universal has been wary to test its blockbusters through rental services. For films like F9, a theatrical release may simply be too profitable to pass up. 

With such massive moves by Universal, AMC, and Regal, however, the question remains: Will the coronavirus pandemic change how Americans view movies, and if so, how?

See what others are saying: (CNBC) (The Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Durte Dom Returns To TikTok Following Sexual Assault Accusation Levied Against Him

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  • YouTuber Dom Zeglaitis, a former member of David Dobrik’s Vlog Squad known online as Durte Dom, returned to the Internet less than one month after he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2018 who was too drunk to consent.
  • Zeglaitis has not issued a response to the allegation, but in the past three days, he has posted a dozen TikToks that mostly consist of short sketches and jokes he filmed with friends. 
  • One post shows Zeglaitis participating in the “Bulletproof” challenge, with text in the clip reading, “You think you can hurt my feelings?!? I got kicked out of the Vlog Squad for…”
  • Several people, including major creators like Tana Mongeau and Ethan Klein, are now calling him out for seeming to make light out of a serious situation.

Durte Dom Returns To Internet

Former Vlog Squad member Dom Zeglaitis, also known as “Durte Dom,” has resumed posting on social media after nearly a month of silence since he was accused of sexual assault. 

A woman told Insider in March that Zeglaitis raped her while she was too drunk to consent to sexual activity in 2018. She said that she and her friends were hanging out with YouTuber David Dobrik’s Vlog Squad at the time. The accuser, who was under 21 the night of the alleged assault, claimed the group supplied her and her friends with alcohol. 

The fallout of this allegation has been significant. While Zeglaitis has yet to respond to it, Dobrik has issued multiple apologies and faced most of the financial repercussions as frontman of the group. Both Zeglaitis and Dobrik were later demonetized by YouTube. Dobrik also lost multiple sponsorship deals and bowed out of Dispo, a photo-sharing app he co-founded. He is now taking a break from YouTube and social media. 

Though Zeglaitis has returned to the Internet, he is still largely ignoring the sexual assault accusation levied against him. He specifically began posting on TikTok over the weekend, and since then has posted roughly a dozen videos on the platform. 

Durte Dom Jokes About The Vlog Squad on TikTok

Most of the videos are short sketches or comedy bits with his friends. In one, he and a friend are going through Omegle while Zeglaitis is off-screen. The friend asks the people on the other end of the chat “What are your thoughts on Durte Dom?” before Zeglaitis enters the shot.

Several of the videos continue to reference Zeglaitis’ sleazy, womanizing, reputation. One shows him claiming to have “smashed” adult film star Riley Reid. In another, he is sitting on a lounge chair throwing money at girls dancing next to him. 

The video generating the most attention, however, is his take on the viral “Bulletproof” challenge. That TikTok features him standing below a text block that reads “You think you can hurt my feelings?!? I got kicked out of the Vlog Squad for…” while the song “Bulletproof” plays in the background.

@dominykas

bruh why they kick me out?!? 😐😵 @daviddobrik #vlogsquad #foryou #tiktok

♬ original sound – DurteDom

In the caption of that video, he tagged Dobrik and asked “bruh why they kick me out?!?”

Creators Call Out Zeglaitis for Ignoring Allegation

This specific TikTok caught the attention of major creators, including Tana Mongeau and Ethan Klein, who dueted that video to call Zeglaitis out. 

“Someone please make this make sense to me,” Mongeau wrote.

“This mf serious?” Klein said.

They are not the only ones frustrated with Zeglaitis. Many responded to the video in the comment section shocked he was posting at all, bringing up the sexual assault allegation, and urging him to not treat it as a joke. 

The comment sections on the rest of his videos are similarly flooded with people who are outraged that he is posting regular content as though nothing had happened.

See what others are saying: (Insider)

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TikToker Neumane Called Out for Copying Content From Smaller Creators

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  • Kane Trujillo, a comedy TikToker known as @neumane, is facing backlash after fellow TikToker Joey Bailey posted a video noting that Trujillo has risen to popularity off content copied from several, often smaller, creators.
  • Bailey also shared an alleged audio message he received from Trujillo where he threatened Bailey to take his call-out video down before sending a second message promising to pursue legal action.
  • In a clip from a TikTok live stream, Trujillo addressed the controversy by saying that “nothing’s original” and seemingly admitting to copying.
  • “It’s not who made it first, it’s who does it better,” he said in the clip. “Who gives a f*ck about some little copied content? … I’m an actor. I’m not a writer, I’m not a f*cking storyteller…You give me a script, I will f*cking nail that sh*t. And I’m not gonna think of it, no, but I’m gonna make yours better.”

Stealing Accusations

Popular comedy TikToker Kane Trujillo, who has over 2.7 million followers and is known on the platform as @neumane, has been called out by fellow creators for a pattern of stealing content.

The latest creator sounding the alarm is Joey Bailey (@joey.bailey), who posted a video to the app on March 15 that showed Trujillo’s posts next to the original versions he appears to have replicated, often word for word and with nearly identical expressions.

Similar allegations regarding Trujillo were made on March 13 in a YouTube video from thatsjustchris.

@joey.bailey

they took this down so this is the last time I repost it

♬ original sound – Joey

In a follow-up TikTok and a longer YouTube video, Bailey went on to explain that he received an audio message from Trujillo through Instagram trying to get Bailey to take the call-out video down.

@joey.bailey

I got a lot of questions about the messages in the last post so heres the final update and that’s it

♬ original sound – Joey

“You can kindly take it down and we can just, you know, be cool and move on from all this sh*t, or you could just leave it up and have a lot of enemies from here on out,” the voice that allegedly belongs to Trujillo can be heard saying in the audio.

Bailey said he privated the video after that because he “didn’t want to become the drama TikToker,” but he eventually changed his mind, arguing that he wasn’t starting drama, he was just standing up for himself.

After he unprivated the video, he said Trujillo sent him another message promising to pursue legal action.

“As of today me & my management team will be proceeding with a False Accusation lawsuit against you. I wish we didn’t have to go this far but you leave me no choice,” that message read.

Copied Creators Express Mixed Feelings

In total, at least several creators appear to have had content copied by Trujillo: @nuhchez, @ty_t.v, @brodiefalgoust, @dawson.taylor1, @licout, @lemmuelmamotsau, and @joey.bailey.

In statements to The Daily Dot, some of those creators essentially said they’ve accepted that this is something that happens on TikTok.

“This is something I’ve come to accept because sadly TikTok is an app that will push stolen content and Suppress originality!” Natchez Ballinger (@nuhchez) told the outlet in an email. “Creators have stolen from me since I’ve joined the app, I take it as flattery in a way.”

“I mean yeah he did steal my video and it became more popular but it’s TikTok,” Dawson Anderson (@dawson.taylor1) told the outlet via Instagram. “I don’t really care all that much it’s a video trend not worth crying over.”

Still, others were much more frustrated.

“The thing with him is that he doesn’t steal ideas, he steals the video word for word, uses the same sound, the same gestures, and even the same wording without giving any credit to the creator whatsoever,” Brodie Falgoust (@brodiefalgoust) told The Daily Dot via Instagram. “That is how he gained all of his following, and continues to do it still (even after being called out). I get ripped off all the time but It’s frustrating as a smaller creator who is constantly coming out with original content when a person with a big following comes and takes credit for your originality.”

“People take my ideas but any creator that has been bigger than me has given me credit!” Falgoust continued.

“There is [a] large difference between following a trend and ripping off someone’s work shot for shot and word for word,” said another creator who spoke to the outlet anonymously out of feat of legal retaliation.

“A lot of users do not understand how much work some of these creators are putting into original content. And for Neumane to hunt down those smaller creators and reproduce their successful content as his own without acknowledging credit is exasperating. The real issue becomes the money and opportunity he is being given by eating off of the backs of others.”

Neumane’s Response

In a clip of a TikTok live stream reviewed by The Daily Dot, Neumane addressed the controversy by saying, “nothing’s original.” He also seemed to admit to copying.

“Imagine showing hate to somebody on the internet,” Trujillo reportedly said during the live stream. “Like bro, just show love. Who gives a f*ck about some little copied content? Like, just make it good, and yours will get a lot of views. Do good expression, act well. I’m an actor. I’m not a writer, I’m not a f*cking storyteller. I’m an actor. You give me a script, I will f*cking nail that sh*t. And I’m not gonna think of it, no, but I’m gonna make yours better.”

A viral TikTok by @ttdramanews covering the allegations against Trujillo shared portions of that clip, which also shows Trujillo saying, “It’s not who made it first, it’s who does it better.”

According to The Daily Dot, Trujillo talked about people needing to show love, though commenters quickly pointed out that he’s the one threatening others with legal action.

See what others are saying: (The Daily Dot) (Joey Bailey) (thatsjustchris)

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Netflix Strikes Deal for Rights To Sony Movies Following Theatrical Releases. Yes, That Includes Spider-Man.

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  • Netflix has secured the exclusive rights to stream Sony films following their theatrical releases, per a reported $1 billion deal between the streaming giant and movie studio. 
  • While the full details of the deal have not yet been officially published, it will begin with Sony’s 2022 slate of films and reportedly last for the following five years.
  • The agreement means Netflix will eventually be granted streaming rights to popular Marvel characters such as Morbius, as well as Venom and Spider-Man once future installments are released. 

Netflix Reach Massive Deal With Sony

Netflix has struck a multi-year licensing deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment that will grant it exclusive streaming rights to the studio’s theatrical titles.

The terms of the agreement have yet to be officially disclosed, but according to multiple media outlets, Netflix will pay Sony over $1 billion over the course of the next four years. The deal itself is set to begin with Sony’s 2022 slate and will reportedly last five years, with Netflix holding streaming rights to individual films for 18 months. 

Given the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s unclear whether some films will continue to have their release dates pushed back. It’s also unclear how long their theatrical windows will last; however, once released, Netflix will acquire streaming rights to films such as “Uncharted,” “Where the Crawdads Sing,” and “Bullet Train.”

Netflix Will Have Marvel Movies Once More

The deal will also grant Netflix access to a number of Marvel characters still owned by Sony. That includes the film “Morbius,” which is currently set to be released in January of next year.

It will also include future installments of the “Venom” and “Spider-Man” franchises, the latter of which is notable as it’s part of the Dinsey-owned Marvel Cinematic Universe. Outside of 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk,” Tom Holland’s “Spider-Man” films are the only other films set in the MCU that are not on Disney+. 

Prior to Disney+’s launch, Netflix held streaming rights to several MCU films, including “Black Panther,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” The shift of those massive blockbusters to another platform was a striking loss for Netflix, and the streaming service is no doubt itching to once again beef up its selection of superhero content.

It’s unclear whether or not the Sony deal will immediately allow Netflix to stream the upcoming films “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” once they leave theaters. That’s because both are currently expected to be released later this year. 

That said, if sequels for these films are announced and can be expected to find their way to Netflix, the streaming giant will be able to acquire the rights to the films’ full library of installments, according to Deadline. Such a deal also exists for Jumanji’s library of movies. 

Sony’s Direct-to-Streaming Titles

Netflix will retain first-look rights to any of Sony’s potential direct-to-streaming titles, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it will acquire those films. Under that part of the deal, Sony still has the right to sell to other streaming platforms. 

While Sony has said it’s considering “a number” of direct-to-streaming releases, as Deadline projected, “in reality [that’s] likely just a couple a year and a minority of the studio’s overall slate.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, however, “Netflix has committed to ordering an undisclosed number of those films.”

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (Wall Street Journal) (IGN)

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