Buried in AMC’s 1Q 2020 earnings release on page 3 today was the statement, “While we are in active dialogue with Universal, no movies made by Universal Studios are currently on our docket.”
The note comes a little bit more than a month after AMC CEO and President Adam Aron alerted the studio in a public note to Universal Studios Chairman Donna Langley that the circuit refused to play the studio’s future titles. Aron’s embargo came in the immediate wake of NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell‘s victory lap for the $100M-grossing PVOD release of Dreamwork Animation’s Trolls World Tour and statements made to the Wall Street Journal that the studio would release movies “release movies on both formats,” indicating a day-and-date theatrical-VOD shift once theaters reopen.
Analysts on today’s earnings call were concerned if there was still a standoff between AMC and Universal, given the fact that the latter is handling the overseas distribution of MGM’s 007 film No Time to Die which will open stateside on Nov. 25.
Said Aron, “So, look, relations are warm with Universal. They have always been warm and I’m using that as a good word. There’s nothing personal about this issue with Universal. I have great respect for Universal’s executives. It’s just an issue about money. We are in active dialogue with Universal.”
While we reached out to Universal about Aron’s comments today and they did not have a response, practically speaking, it’s too soon for AMC to worry about booking any of the studio’s titles. Warner Bros. is looking to grab as many screens as they can for Tenet on July 17, and while many, including Aron, remain hopeful that the Christopher Nolan film will open on that day, it’s not 100% yet. Couple this with the fact that Disney hasn’t called back its furloughed distribution ops to book Mulan for July 24.
AMC has a bit of time before they have to book any Universal titles. The first movie on Uni’s schedule is the Focus Features’ Kevin Costner-Diane Lane crime drama Let Him Go on Aug. 21. Then in September Focus has Universal’s Kajillionaire being platformed on Sept. 18, followed by Uni/MGM’s Candyman on Sept. 25 and the Amblin Tom Hanks sci-fi movie Bios on Oct. 2.