by Brandon Butler
Movie Theaters Get Mad at Universal Studios Because of the New Trolls Movie is a Headline I’m Now Typing 5/1/2020

This gave me a chuckle. Pamela McClintock for The Hollywood Reporter on a little flare up between a theater chain and a movie studio.

On Tuesday, Universal Studios was saying how well Trolls World Tour did on premium video-on-demand rentals over the last couple of weeks, nearly matching the box office for the original Trolls film from a few years back. Of course it did well, it has big name stars and is a great way to entertain the kids while trying to get some work done in the makeshift kitchen table office. So Universal’s CEO Jeff Shell was happy with the money the film made and touted the film’s VOD success, as any good CEO would do.

Now AMC, like all major theater chains, is really struggling right now without any movies to show or being allowed to be open for business, which appears to be really stressing out CEO Adam Aron. He did not like Universal’s pleasure at having made a profit without his theater chain being the middle man, and he immediately replied to Universal, saying, “[Blah blah blah] effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters.” Which is the exact wrong response! When you have no sales to speak of, don’t ban one of the largest film studios from your dead-in-the-water theaters.

The proper reply from AMC would have been, “Congrats, Jeff, looking forward to watching your next blockbuster film in an AMC theater with you! Emoji Open Hands Face.” (Fuck, I’d make a great CEO.)

I really don’t get it. Universal just bragged to all their friends about how well their Premium VOD rental experiment worked out, so AMC throws a fit and rips up their BFF ankle bracelet? Oh gosh, now Universal will just have to distribute more films VOD and cut out the middle man currently having a full blown temper-tantrum in a press release.

Audiences have spoken (and finally for once not during the movie): they don’t care about the theater experience, they don’t want to be charged $5 for a 12oz cup of Coke that’s 50% ice, and they don’t want to sit next to a bunch of strangers breathing their germs. They want to plop down on their own couch and click Rent on their Apple TV/Fire Sticks and watch the movie on their 70” TV and pause the film when they need to pee. I used to love the experience of being in a movie theater, but as audience’s attention spans have waned and social norms on basic courtesy (not talking, no phones, etc) are ignored by half the audience, I’ve enjoyed my time in a theater significantly less over the last decade, to the point where I put off going to see the film until the movie is available digitally for rent or streaming.

Oh, and the big-name directors and producers and actors who are going to tell you how great it is to go to the theater, how important it is to see their movie with an audience, (the Spielbergs, the Nolans, the Camerons, the Tarantinos, the Scorseses), these guys haven’t been in a public movie theater in 30 years. They either go to the big premiere parties and watch the movies with their peers, or they watch in their private screening rooms at home.

I think the movie theater business does not outlive Tom Holland. March 2020 marks the beginning of the end. A few big chains will merge, and most cities will likely see all but one or two theaters close within the next decade. Those that stay open will offer a premium viewing experience with the really nice reclining chairs, huge screens, and great sound (and $10 for a medium Coke). Because now the studios have realized, Holy shit, we have this amazing distribution channel called THE INTERNET and we don’t need a fucking theater chain running our business for us.

C’mon, Disney, show some solidarity with your studio/theme park bro and toss Black Widow up for rent on Apple TV next weekend. Warner, get that new Christopher Nolan film Tenet online. This is your chance to finally prove to the saddest bullies in the world that you have the power and the fan base to release a film anywhere, anytime, and see it be profitable. If there was ever a time to break the chains you’ve bound yourselves to, this is it.

And now I’m going to reheat some old pizza, grab a can of Coke from the fridge, and stretch out on my incredibly comfortable couch to watch the Trolls World Tour movie I just rented from Apple. I may never go to the theater again.