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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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D.A.R.E. Accuses HBO’s “Euphoria” of Glorifying Drug Use

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The organization believes the drama series could have “negative consequences on school-age children who today face unparalleled risks and mental health challenges.


D.A.R.E. Slams “Euphoria”

HBO’s “Euphoria” has become synonymous with its explicit depictions of teen sex, violence, and addiction. The substance abuse awareness organization D.A.R.E. condemned the series for its lurid content, arguing that it glorifies drug use. 

While drugs can weasel their way into any aspect of the show at a moment’s notice, the primary storyline around addiction follows Rue, a high schooler who often resists the help she needs to recover. Zendaya won an Emmy for portraying the struggling protagonist in 2020. 

D.A.R.E., also known as Drug Abuse Resistance Education, told TMZ on Wednesday that “Euphoria” is reckless in its handling of such weighted subject matter.  

“Rather than further each parent’s desire to keep their children safe from the potentially horrific consequences of drug abuse and other high-risk behavior, HBO’s television drama, Euphoria, chooses to misguidedly glorify and erroneously depict high school student drug use, addiction, anonymous sex, violence, and other destructive behaviors as common and widespread in today’s world,” a representative for the group told the outlet. 

“It is unfortunate that HBO, social media, television program reviewers, and paid advertising have chosen to refer to the show as ‘groundbreaking,’ rather than recognizing the potential negative consequences on school-age children who today face unparalleled risks and mental health challenges,” the representative continued. 

“Euphoria” Cast and Creator Speak on Heavy Subject Matter

Ahead of the season two premiere, Zendaya warned her followers that much of the content in “Euphoria” is not suitable for all viewers. 

“I know I’ve said this before, but I do want to reiterate to everyone that Euphoria is for mature audiences,” she wrote on Instagram. “This season, maybe more so than the last, is deeply emotional and deals with subject matter that can be triggering and difficult to watch. Please only watch it if you feel comfortable.”

Sam Levinson, the creator of “Euphoria,” has been open about his own experience with addiction. Now over a decade sober, Levinson struggled with substance abuse as a teenager, much like Zendaya’s Rue. He feels a personal connection to the story, and therefore, a responsibility to honestly represent the tribulations of addiction.

“The hardest thing about portraying a drug addict is — there are a lot of cautionary tales, there are a lot of after-school specials — but what I really wanted to get to the core of is the pain and the shame about what you’re doing and you’re inability to get clean despite the havoc and destruction you’re wreaking around you,” Levinson said of the show during the ATX Television Festival in 2019, per Deadline.

Levinson noted that he does have to be “mindful of” the risk of glamorizing drug use “just by the sheer nature of it being on screen.” 

“We have to be authentic about it,” he explained. “If we’re pulling our punches and we’re not showing the relief that drugs can bring it starts to lose its impact. Drugs are not the solution but they can feel like it at times, and that’s what makes them so destructive.”

Drug Use on Euphoria

Still, D.A.R.E. is far from the first group to express concern over the impact “Euphoria” might have on younger viewers. Before the second season debuted earlier this month, the Parents Television and Media Council released a statement warning of the show’s “imminent threat to the health and well-being of children.”

Before each episode of “Euphoria” airs, HBO flashes a warning to alert viewers of the drug abuse, language, violence, nudity, and sex that will appear in the program. The show might be cavalier in the casual and frequent manner it depicts drug use and other dangerous behavior, but more often than not, characters await the consequences of their actions. 

In the most recent episode of “Euphoria,” Rue’s addiction lands her in a visceral screaming match with her sister. The scene underscores the tragic and harsh reality of substance abuse.

While critics push back against the show for a variety of other reasons, they generally praise Rue’s arc, largely thanks to Zendaya’s gripping performance. 

But D.A.R.E. argued that the show goes a bridge too far and offered to meet with HBO to hash out the issues. 

“We would welcome the opportunity for our team, including members of our high school-aged Youth Advocacy Board, to meet with individuals at HBO who are involved with producing Euphoria to present our concerns directly,” D.A.R.E.’s representative told TMZ.

HBO has not publicly responded to the criticisms.

See what others are saying: (TMZ) (Vanity Fair) (Complex)

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Neil Young Asks For His Music to Be Removed From Spotify Over Vaccine Misinformation

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The “Harvest Moon” singer told his representatives that the streaming service “can have Rogan or Young. Not both.” 


Neil Young Wants Music His Off Of Spotify

Musician Neil Young wrote an open letter to his management and record label demanding that his music be taken down from Spotify over concerns about vaccine misinformation. 

The “Heart of Gold” singer initially posted the letter on his website, but it has since been removed. According to Rolling Stone, which reported on the document before it was taken down, Young specifically took issue with podcast host Joe Rogan. 

“I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform,” he wrote. “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.” 

“The Joe Rogan Experience” is exclusive to Spotify and was the most popular podcast on the platform in 2021. Rogan has regularly received criticism for spreading COVID-19 misinformation that contradicts public health recommendations, specifically when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines. 

Rogan previously said that young people should not worry about getting vaccinated against the coronavirus. He has also regularly cited faulty studies questioning their efficacy and interviewed controversial medical personalities who are known for promoting conspiracy theories about the vaccine. 

Young said he is afraid of the ramifications of these kinds of remarks.

“I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines – potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them,” the singer wrote. “Please act on this immediately today and keep me informed of the time schedule.”

Concerns About Joe Rogan’s Vaccine Comments

Young’s manager, Frank Gironda, conf​​rimed the authenticity of the letter to The Daily Beast.

“It’s something that’s really important to Neil,” Gironda said.  “He’s very upset about this disinformation. We’re trying to figure this out right now.”

Young is far from the first person to express frustrations over the anti-vax views on the audio streaming service platforms. Earlier this month, a group of doctors and other medical professionals wrote a letter to Spotify urging the company to implement a policy to fight disinformation.

“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” the letter said. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, [The Joe Rogan Experience] is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

“This is not only a scientific or medical concern; it is a sociological issue of devastating proportions and Spotify is responsible for allowing this activity to thrive on its platform,” the expert cautioned. 

Spotify has not made a public statement regarding Young’s letter.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (The Daily Beast) (The Verge)

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Ana de Armas Fans Sue Universal For Removing Actress From “Yesterday” Film

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The fans argue that because there were no scenes with de Armas as promised in the trailer, “consumers were not provided with any value for their rental or purchase.”


Ana de Armas Scenes Cut From “Yesterday”

Two fans of Ana de Armas are suing Universal Pictures for including the actress in a trailer for the 2019 film “Yesterday” even though she does not appear in the final cut of the picture. 

In a class-action lawsuit filed in California, Conor Woulfe and Peter Michael Rosza said they each spent $3.99 to watch the film after viewing the accompanying trailer on Amazon. They argue the studio’s “advertising and promotion of the movie Yesterday is false, misleading, and deceptive.”

The Danny Boyle-directed comedy follows a man, played by Himesh Patel, who wakes up in a world where no one knows who The Beatles are but him, so he starts playing their music and claiming it as his own. De Armas appears briefly in the trailer as a character competing with the primary love interest, played by Lily James. Writer Richard Curtis said they had to cut de Armas’ part to strengthen the character arcs.

“That was a very traumatic cut, because she was brilliant in it,” Curtis previously told Cinema Blend. “I mean really radiant. And [that] turned out to be the problem…I think the audience did not like the fact that his eyes even strayed. Because then some people would go, ‘Oh, he really doesn’t deserve her. He really doesn’t deserve Lily.’ You know, it’s one of those things where it’s some of our favorite scenes from the film, but we had to cut them for the sake of the whole.”

For Woulfe and Rosza, the choice to cut de Armas is a dealbreaker. They are seeking $5 million on behalf of all impacted consumers. 

Fans File Lawsuit Against Universal

“Because consumers were promised a movie with Ana De Armas by the trailer for Yesterday, but did not receive a movie with any appearance of Ana De Armas at all, such consumers were not provided with any value for their rental or purchase,” the lawsuit states. 

Patel and James each had credits of their own prior to the release of “Yesterday.” Still, the fans believe that Universal instead used the star power of De Armas, who had recently appeared in “Blade Runner 2049,” to “entice viewership.”

Unable to rely on fame of the actors playing Jack Malik or Ellie to maximize ticket and movie sales and rentals, Defendant consequently used Ms. De Armas’s fame, radiance and brilliance to promote the film,” the suit continued. 

Just a few months after the release of “Yesterday,” de Armas would go on to receive critical acclaim for her role in “Knives Out.” She has since appeared in the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die.”

Now a much bigger name than in spring of 2019, the lawsuit claims de Armas still appears in trailers on services like Amazon and Google.

“Despite knowing that Ms. De Armas was not in the released version of the movie Yesterday, Defendant has consistently promoted Ms. De Armas as a character starring in the film, by including her scenes in Yesterday’s movie trailers,” the suit states. “Indeed, Defendant continues to promote Ms. De Armas as appearing in the film more than two years after its initial release, in advertisements for movie sales and rentals.”

Universal has not released a statement in response to the lawsuit.

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (Variety) (IndieWire)

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