Greetings, and welcome to a fresh new edition of The Monitor, WIRED’s entertainment news roundup. This time around we have some news about a dust-up between AMC Theatres and Universal Pictures, and some good news for—and from—Netflix. Let’s get going.
AMC Theatres Axes Universal After It Releases Trolls World Tour on Demand
If you’ve been anywhere near a TV lately—and you probably have—you likely saw that, amidst theater closings and coronavirus lockdowns, Universal Pictures released Trolls World Tour via video-on-demand a few weeks back. Well, AMC Theatres, which likely would’ve offered the movie if they’d been allowed to open, wasn’t too happy with that. In a letter published in The Hollywood Reporter, the cinema chain said that as a result of the incident, it will no longer feature any Universal picture.
“This policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, it also extends to any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes,” AMC chairman Adam Aron write in the letter. “Currently, with the press comment today, Universal is the only studio contemplating a wholesale change to the status quo. Hence, this immediate communication in response.”
That comment Aron is referring to came from NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, who, in a Wall Street Journal piece on Tuesday, spoke about the fact that Trolls World Tour made some $100 million in premium VOD rentals in its first three weeks. “The results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell told the Journal, which first reported the numbers. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.” In other words, they could release them online at the same time as theaters, a move that could affect how many fans leave the house to watch. After AMC’s letter, Universal clarified, saying in a statement that the studio is dedicated to the theater experience and “have made no statement to the contrary. As we stated earlier, going forward, we expect to release future films directly to theaters, as well as on PVOD when that distribution outlet makes sense.”
Movies Released on Streaming Platforms Will Qualify for Oscars
Speaking of closed theaters and movies released on streaming platforms, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this week that some films released on digital platforms can qualify for next year’s Oscars. Typically, a movie has to screen in a Los Angeles-area theater for one week to be considered, but following a meeting of the Academy’s board of governors via Zoom on Tuesday, that rule has been eased. Now, any movie that was scheduled for a theatrical release and meets the other requirements can qualify if it’s released on streaming or some other service. Start making deals, Netflix.
Netflix Is Making a Show About Social Distancing
Yes, you read that headline correctly. On Tuesday, Netflix announced that the creative team behind Orange Is the New Black is working on an anthology series about social distancing. Of course, it’ll be written, filmed, etc. by observing the tenets of social distancing. Oh, and it’ll also be called Social Distance. According to a statement posted on Netflix’s See What’s Next Twitter account, the series will tell “stories about the current moment we are living through—the unique, personal, deeply human stories that illustrate how we are living apart, together."
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