Are The Days Of Watching Films In The Theatre Over?

The current pandemic has already changed a lot in our lives, and when it’s all over with things may continue to be different. A lot of people are starting to wonder if large public gatherings will be a thing of the past, or if they’re not, if they will be smaller than we’ve been used to. The results of recent surveys have started to show that people aren’t going to feel comfortable to going back to the the way things were for a long time, and in some cases people have already started to say they won’t go back to crowded concerts or sporting events. And what about seeing a film in the theatre? If recent events have taught us anything, people have gotten used to watching new films in the comfort of their own home and may start skipping the high-priced cost of seeing a film in public. Part of the decision may not even be their own.

Recently, Universal pictures touted the success of their film Trolls World Tour on VOD. The film was supposed to be released on April 10th in theatres, but due to closures Universal decided to rent the film on VOD instead for $19.99. The film exceeded expectations, making over $100 million in it’s first three weeks. This result will see the film make a profit, something that wasn’t guaranteed if it had gone the more traditional theatre release route. Typically films wouldn’t be released on VOD until 90 days had passed after a theatrical opening, but now NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell is saying they might have to reconsider that. It was that statement that irked movie theatre chain AMC.

After Universal’s commented, AMC movie theatres released a statement from chairman-CEO Adam Aron, which said “It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice. Therefore, effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters in the United States, Europe or the Middle East.”

Universal releases some large films each year, and this year was set to be no exception with new entries in the James Bond and Fast and Furious franchises to be two of their biggest. If AMC continues to hold fast to their statement, Universal will see a large drop in revenue, leaving them with no choice but to try the VOD route for those films as well. That in itself would be a disaster to the industry, because more movie studios may be inclined to give it a try as well.

Of course in the end, AMC and Universal will manage to patch things up. 2020 is an exception to many rules, including the Oscars which announced for the year they are abandoning their rule that a film needs to have a theatrical screening in order to be considered for their awards. Even when AMC and Universal fix their disagreement, it may be too late anyway. There will always be people wanting to see films on as big of screens as possible, but many more will be looking at the amount of money they saved by staying at home to see them instead. And with television and home theatre technology continuing to get better and better, more and more people might just consider staying at home to watch new releases their better option anyway. 

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