The Brussels-based organization, which represents European cinema operators, spoke out in response to growing tensions between exhibitors and Universal over the straight-to-VOD release of “Trolls World Tour.”
On Tuesday, the studio said the film took in $100 million in premium VOD rentals in its first three weeks of play in North America, a result that will push the film towards profitability.
NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell later told the Wall Street Journal that when theaters reopen, the studio will continue “to release movies on both formats,” effectively bypassing the 90-day window typically observed before releasing films digitally. The comments prompted AMC Theatres to announce it will immediately cut ties with the studio and boycott Universal films in its cinemas across the U.S., Europe and Middle East.
In a statement, UNIC said: “The performance of ‘Trolls Word Tour’ should be viewed — and only viewed — in the context of the exceptional circumstances surrounding its release and the unprecedented times we are living through.”
The organization said that given the extent of national lockdowns around the world, “It’s hardly surprising that many have turned to VOD and similar other services.”
“This combination of unusual circumstances should not be used as a reference to re-design a longstanding and proven release business model, which remains crucial in ensuring the ongoing availability of films to the benefit of audiences,” said UNIC.
“Those who will depend on the success of the film industry should refrain from hastily altering key practices for short-term gains and should instead commit to create the best conditions for the whole sector to recover as soon as possible.”
The org went on to say that audience demand for “Trolls World Tour” should not be viewed “as a sign of changing preferences from an audience standpoint,” highlighting that 2019 was a record year for the global box office.
“We remain confident that when audiences are able safely to return to their local cinema, they will soon rediscover the unforgettable, immersive experience that only the big screen can deliver and that cinemas will continue to play the role they always have as the most popular and affordable form of entertainment available outside the home,” said UNIC.
Last week, Tim Richards, CEO of European cinema chain Vue International, told Variety that the “Trolls World Tour” PVOD release was “a bit of an aberration” that was “not a popular move” among exhibitors. However, he noted that most were understanding of the decision.