The Shocking Movie That Proved This Could Be the End of Movie Theaters

Could the movie theater experience be the next victim of the coronavirus? Trolls World Tour says yes.

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As much as this may shock you, future film historians may very well point to Trolls World Tour as one of the more influential movies of our time. The otherwise innocuous children's film has found itself in the middle of a contentious back and forth between film studios and movie theater chains, which could spell the end of movie-going at large. It all started when Trolls World Tour was scheduled to hit theaters on Apr. 10, but amid the nationwide lockdown, its film studio, Universal, decided to make it available at home via On Demand services on that same day.

Of course, that was a savvy business decision borne from the stay-at-home guidelines that have the large majority of movie theaters across the country closed for business. And it paid off. The kids-movie-cum-toy-commercial earned an estimated $100 million via On Demand in just the first three weeks it was available in North America. According to The Hollywood Reporter, that's "more than enough to put the film on the road to profitability."

By comparison, the original Trolls movie (released in theaters in 2016) earned $116 million at the domestic box office in its first three weeks. (It went on to earn $153.7 million in North America for the year.) In other words, Universal earned close to 90 percent of the revenue from at-home viewing and has to share none of that with theater chains. That's a big deal. NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell told TheWall Street Journal that the "results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD. As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats."

Shell's comments did not play well with movie theater companies, in particular AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron, who sent a "strongly worded" letter to Universal Entertainment Chair Donna Langley. AMC, the largest theater chain in the world, announced in the letter that it will no longer show any movies produced by Universal Studios, based on Shell's comment. Here's a portion of the letter, as obtained by The Hollywood Reporter:

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 responded to AMC's letter and the two entertainment corporations have continued a significant back and forth. And while tensions have somewhat abated, dispassionate viewers of this conflict are left with some rather clear takeaways: 1) On Demand and streaming services have disrupted the movie business, and 2) Film studios may not be as reliant on theater chains as theater chains are on film studios. Perhaps the larger concern is whether cinemas can weather this storm at all. And if you're looking for movies to watch with your kids in quarantine—sorry, AMC—check out 16 Classic Family Movies to Stream With Your Kids.

Watch the trailer for Trolls World Tour here:

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