Before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, Trolls World Tour was set for release on April 10. But with theaters closed, Universal Pictures made a decision the Wall Street Journal notes has "[paid] off handsomely": The studio behind the animated film made the sequel available to rent digitally that day instead and has since brought in almost $100 million, more than the original movie made in five months in the theaters. The move has gone so well that once theaters reopen, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said some films will be released on both formats simultaneously. Not everyone is on board—notably, AMC Theatres, which is now slamming the studio for trying to "have its cake and eat it, too." Those words came via a letter from AMC CEO Adam Aron to Universal Chair Donna Langley, in which Aron accuses Universal of "breaking the business model" between the two.
There was "zero concern on Universal's part as to how its actions affect us," Aron writes. The chain says it will no longer host Universal movies in its US, Europe, or Middle East theaters, and that it will do the same to other studios that follow suit. Aron says the studio left AMC "with no choice" in the matter, per USA Today. CNN Business notes the development is a "serious escalation" of a long-simmering issue among theaters and studios revolving around the "theatrical window"—the time period in which a movie plays in theaters before it's available via other platforms. Universal pushed back in its own statement: "We absolutely believe in the theatrical experience. ... As we stated earlier, going forward, we expect to release future films directly to theaters, as well as on [premium video-on-demand] when that distribution outlet makes sense." (Read more AMC stories.)