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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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Doja Cat Addresses Accusations of Past Racist Behavior

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  • #DojaCatIsOverParty trended on Twitter over the weekend as circulating clips appeared to show the singer visiting allegedly racist chat rooms. 
  • Twitter users accused Doja Cat of being anti-black and also resurfaced an old song of hers called “Dindu Nuffin,” which is a racist slur used to belittle black victims of police brutality. 
  • She responded on Instagram Sunday, saying that while she was in chat rooms she should not have been in, she was never part of any racist dialogue. 
  • Doja Cat also claimed that she wrote the controversial song about her own personal experiences in an attempt to reclaim the phrase but understands now that she should not have used the term in her music.
  • After fans said they did not find her apology to be sincere, she explained her side of the story again on an Instagram Live.

Doja Cat Apologizes

Singer Doja Cat apologized after videos of her in allegedly racist chat rooms circulated on Twitter, prompting #DojaCatIsOverParty to trend throughout the weekend. 

The clips of Amalaratna Zandile Dlamini, better known as Doja Cat, first made their way onto Twitter on Friday. Fans say those chat rooms were for white supremacists, and that while in those rooms Doja Cat said the n-word, joked along with racist behavior, and made anti-black sentiments.

In addition to fans sharing those videos, many also talked about an old song Doja Cat wrote in 2015 called “Dindu Nuffin.” That phrase is a racial slur used to belittle black victims of police brutality. Doja Cat first issued her apology on Sunday night on Instagram.

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

“I’ve used public chat rooms to socialize since I was a child,” she wrote in the post. “I shouldn’t have been on some of those chat room sites, but I personally have never been involved in any racist conversations. I’m sorry to everyone that I offended.”

The singer also added that half of her family is from South Africa and that she is proud of where she comes from. She also addressed the controversial song, which some people claimed was written in response to the death of Sandra Bland. Doja Cat, however, said it was actually written with the intent to reclaim the phrase based on her relationship with it.

“It was in no way tied to anything outside of my own personal experience,” she explained. “It was written in response to people who often used that term to hurt me. I made an attempt to flip its meaning, but recognize that it was a bad decision to use the term in my music.”

“I understand my influence and impact and I’m taking this all very seriously,” she added.

Doja’s Instagram Live

After receiving backlash for that apology, with some finding it insincere, Doja Cat did an Instagram Live to further address the concerns. She admitted that her post, like many public apologies, was carefully crafted by her and her team. She went live so she could clear the air in her own words in real time. 

During the livestream, she showed that she had actually pre-recorded a bunch of apologies to share, but ultimately decided not to post them because they were obviously too diplomatic and did not feel genuine. 

She first addressed accusations of self-hate. She claimed that yes, sometimes she has been frustrated with her physical appearance, like her hair, but that does not mean she hates herself. She said she loves herself and everything about her, and regrets ever sharing negative thoughts on social media.

She then addressed her controversial old song, and the term she used in it.

“It shouldn’t be used. Period,” she said. ” I’m going to start with, I’m very sorry to anybody who has taken offense, to anybody who I have hurt, who I have hurt using this term.”

She also said she thinks that at its core, it is just a very bad song. She denied that the song was in any way related to Sandra Bland.

Doja Cat next addressed what happened in those chat rooms, which she claims were in no way for white supremacists.

“There are racist people who come in and out of the chat. They’re there. They happen and then they’re banned,” she explained.

Doja Cat said that like anywhere on the internet, racist people pop in and cause problems, and that maybe on TinyChat, it’s more common because there is less regulation. She claimed that as a mod herself, she has kicked people promoting this behavior out of chats. She maintained the chats she was in were not for white supremacists.

Regarding her use of the n-word in one of the videos, Doja Cat said she was drunk and not thinking at all. She said it had nothing to do with race-play, like some people had suggested. She also called out people who said she only dates white men, explaining that who she is attracted to and who she dates is none of their business. 

She closed her video by telling her fans she loved them and apologizing to them once more.

“I’m not perfect. But at the end of the day, I shouldn’t be doing dumb shit,” she said.

Old Clips Resurface

The clips that allegedly show Doja Cat in what many initially deemed racist chat rooms have been shared by multiple users and were a discussion thread on the messaging platform Lipstick Alley. Though that thread has now been deleted, one person wrote Doja Cat would joke along as people in the rooms made racist remarks.

Some videos just show her in the chat room, surrounded mainly by white men. In many, she talks about sexual acts. In one, she says the n-word. Many of the people in the room laugh in response. Some users said she stripped during these chats in front of allegedly racist men.

People on Twitter also accused Doja Cat of being anti-black. Some made claims that the singer only dates white men. Others pointed to a tweet Doja Cat has deleted that said “thinking about being Black can make any sensible person depressed.”

Screenshot via Twitter: @barbzbussy

“Like just think about it wouldn’t being White make soo much more sense,” the tweet continued. “Life would have value.”

Because of this, many called out the singer’s behavior, saying things like, “that girl needs help.”

Many were not pleased with her first apology, which is likely what prompted the second. #OnlyKlans became a top trending topic on Monday morning, with many using it to further call out Doja Cat’s past actions. 

“Define ‘taking seriously’ @DojaCat,” another Twitter user wrote. “typing up a few words is not a sincere apology… Stop hiding behind a fucking screen.”

See what others are saying: (Complex) (Vulture) (The Independent)

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Many Fans Are Disappointed With John Krasinski for Selling ‘Some Good News’

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  • Fans of John Krasinski have been loving his YouTube web series “Some Good News,” which was intended to spread joy during the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Days after Krasinski announced he was taking a break from the show, news broke that he had sold the series to ViacomCBS for an undisclosed amount and will no longer be its host.  
  • While some have congratulated him on the deal, plenty of fans are unhappy, refusing to watch a more corporate-backed show without him hosting. 
  • Others called him a sellout for profiting off a show that was intended to be positive light during hard times.

Update May 26, 2020 – John Krasinski has since stated that reports about the show moving to CBS All Access are incorrect. He did not explicitly confirm where the show is expected to air.

What is SGN?

John Krasinki reached a deal to sell his massively successful YouTube series “Some Good News” to ViacomCBS, but fans online seem to have mixed feelings about it. 

Krasinski started the short-lived YouTube show in March as a way to highlight feel-good stories and spread joy during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It was an instant hit, with the channel earning over 2.5 million subscribers in two months and racking up over 71,000,000 total views with just 14 videos. 

The actor self-financed and produced the weekly show from his own home, reaching out to his audience for stories and ideas. Eventually, corporate sponsors began to show him support that allowed him to conduct surprise giveaways. For instance, he once partnered with AT&T to provide nurses and doctors with free wireless service for three months, and also provided a group of Boston healthcare workers with Red Sox tickets for life,

Krasinski even made headlines for using the show to host reunions for The Office and Hamilton casts, as well as host a virtual high school prom and graduation that featured big names like the Jonas Brothers, Billie Eilish, Steven Speilberg, and Oprah. 

After eight episodes, Krasinski announced Monday that he would be taking a break from the show. In the post, he shared a link to Sunday’s show, which many understood to be his final episode. 

By Thursday, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news of his deal with ViacomCBS.

Details of the Sale 

The deal reportedly came after a massive bidding war over the series, with the winning amount left undisclosed. 

Now the Hollywood Reporter says ViacomCBS plans to broadcast the show across its soon-to-be rebranded streaming platform, CBA All Access, before moving it over to a wider audience through some of the company’s other brands. As far as production, the series will be produced via Comedy Central Productions.

Unfortunately for many fans, Krasinski will no longer be a host of the show. Instead, he will carry on as an executive producer and is expected to have some sort of on-air presence. A new host will be announced at a later date. 

“Could not be more excited and proud to be partnering with CBS/Viacom to be able to bring Some Good News to so many more people!” Krasinski said in a statement Thursday.

“From the first episode, our goal was to create a news show dedicated entirely to good news. Never did I expect to be joining the ranks of such a historic news organization as CBS.”

He followed up with a tweet Friday morning expressing excitement about the show living on.

The Hollywood Reporter noted that Krasinski initially resisted the urge to sell the series, despite a ton of interest from broadcast networks and streaming services after the first episode alone. 

However, Krasinski already has a relationship with ViacomCBS since it owns Paramount Television, which produces his Amazon show “Jack Ryan.” Krasinski also wrote, directed, and starred in the film “A Quiet Place” for Paramount Pictures, and “A Quiet Place Part II” is scheduled to be released in September.

Online Reactions 

Responses to the news have been varied. Many viewers have expressed support for the move and thanked Krasinski for the joy his show brought them.

Still, there are plenty of fans who are disappointed and frustrated by the move. Some went so far as to accuse him of being a sellout and trying to profit off something that was marketing as a sincere attempt to bring light during dark times. Others were sad to see the show become more corporate and refused to watch without him as the host.

Others expressed concern about the show potentially being less accessible since it was previously free to watch on YouTube. 

It appears that SGN has caught wind of those concerns because it has been responding to fans on Twitter promising to make the show as accessible as possible. 

There have been a handful of fans defending Krasinski, understanding the deal as a good business decision, but others wonder if this will leave a bad taste in some people’s mouths or cause some to question his intentions behind the series. 

For now it will be interesting to see how the move actually impacts the SGN and if the series will still be valuable without Krasinski as a host. 

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (Fox News) (Mashable

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Kendall Jenner Agrees to Pay $90K Settlement for Promoting Fyre Festival

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Photo by Taylor Hill

  • Kendall Jenner will pay $90,000 for her part in promoting the failed Fyre Festival in 2017.
  • According to the lawsuit filed against her, she was paid $275,000 for an Instagram post, which was not properly labeled as a promotion and intentionally led people to believe Kanye West would be a festival performer. 
  • The incident highlights just how influential the Kardashian/Jenner family is, especially on Instagram where they earn some of the highest amounts for sponsored posts. 

Kendall’s Role in the Fyre Festival 

Kendall Jenner has agreed to settle a lawsuit levied against her for her part in promoting the 2017 Fyre Festival.

That event, as you probably know by now, is notorious for being a total disaster. It promised a glamorous weekend in the Bahamas, calling it the “cultural experience of the decade.” Ticket packages ranged from $1,200 to over $100,000 and were supposed to give guests access to luxurious accommodations, gourmet food, and musical performances by acts like Migos and Blink 182.

Of course, none of that actually happened, and what we actually saw were stranded festival-goers eating sad cheese sandwiches in FEMA tents. 

Anyway, as far as how Jenner is related to all of this, she was actually one of the biggest names promoting the event on social media. Then, in August of 2019, she was sued in New York’s U.S. Bankruptcy Court by Gregory Messer — the trustee recovering money and assets for creditors who did business with the festival.

According to court documents, Jenner was paid $275,000 to post about the festival on her Instagram in January of 2017. That since-deleted post was captioned: “So hyped to announced my G.O.O.D. Music Family as the first headliners for @fyrefestival…Use my promo code KJONFYRE for the next 24 hours to get on the list for the artists and talents afterparty on Fyre Cay.”

Kendall Jenner’s deleted Instagram post from 2017

The Settlement 

The lawsuit accused Jenner of intentionally leading the public to believe that Kanye West, who founded the G.O.O.D. music label, was set to perform at the event. “This conduct demonstrates a clear lack of good faith on Jenner’s part,” the suit stated. 

It also noted that she did not properly specify that her post was a paid promotion, which caused her to receive a warning from the Federal Trade Commission. 

Now, as part of a settlement agreement, Jenner will pay $90,000 for her role in promoting the event, less than half of what she earned for the post itself. She hasn’t made an official statement about the settlement, but she did talk about her involvement with the event in March of last year.

In an interview with The New York Times, she said: “You get reached out to by people to, whether it be to promote or help or whatever, and you never know how these things are going to turn out, sometimes it’s a risk.”

“I definitely do as much research as I can, but sometimes there isn’t much research you can do because it’s a starting brand and you kind of have to have faith in it and hope it will work out the way people say it will.” 

Jenner isn’t the only one who was hit with a lawsuit for connections to the festival. Claims were also filed against celebrities like Emily Ratajkowski, Migo, Pusha T, Blink-182, and Lil Yatchy.

As far as the brains behind the whole operation, Fyre Media founder Billy McFarland is currently serving out a 6-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to wire fraud. He was also ordered to repay the $26 million he defrauded from investors.  

The Kardashian/ Jenner Influence 

The fact that Jenner was paid over a quarter-million dollars for a single Instagram post really highlights just how powerful the Kardashian/Jenner influence is. We see it all the time with their massively successful brands, but just to give you an understanding of how much their Instagram posts matter, take a look at Kylie Jenner’s recent influence on the sneaker market.

Footwear News reported that, the younger Jenner sister posted just four images to her Instagram this year that showed her wearing various pairs of Nike SB Dunks. According to the sneaker reseller Stockx, each time she wore a pair, the resale prices climbed by 30% to 50% while sales volume at least doubled, and in some cases, quadrupled.

Last weekend for instance, she posted a photo in a pair of sneakers that debuted in 2008. Those had been reselling for about $700, but prices rose to $1,100 about 48 hours after her post. On top of that, six pairs were sold within those same 48 hours, which is more sales than the sneaker had seen in the previous two months combined. 

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The site believes the “speed and magnitude” of increased demand for shoes she wears is attributable to “her power as an influencer and market mover.”

To be fair, Kylie is the highest earner of her family at the moment. She also topped Hopper HQ’s Instagram Rich List last year, with the site estimating that a sponsored post from Kylie costs about $1.2 million. 

But her family members weren’t too far behind, with Kim Kardashian at the #3 spot, Kendall at #13, and Khloe Kardashian at #14. According to that site’s estimate, a sponsored post from Kendall, who was also the highest-paid model of 2018, would cost around $611,000. Though the prices are steep, it shows that the responses for each post must be high enough for brands to consider these sponsorships a profitable move. 

See what others are saying: (EOnline) (Fox Business) (Refinery 29)  

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