Why I’m Siding with Universal in the AMC vs. Universal Debate

Last week, AMC and Regal theaters made the bold decision to ban movies from Universal Studios. This came on the heels of an unexpected, yet successful, VOD (video on demand) run of Trolls: World Tour. Since this announcement, a debate over which side made the right choice has started on the internet. After some consideration, I thought I’d join this debate by expressing my perspectives through this editorial. As you read in the title, I have sided with Universal Studios. In my editorial, I will highlight three reasons why I think Universal is in the right when it comes to this situation. Before I begin, I would like to point out that this post is not meant to be mean-spirited and negative toward anyone. This article is created to simply express my opinion.

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Universal Has More Mouths to Feed

It’s no secret that the Coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on the economy. Many industries have lost their finances as well as their employees. Because of the orders to “social-distance” and self-quarantine, businesses that attract large crowds have been forced to temporarily close their doors. Movie theaters are just one of them, with studios postponing some of their theatrical releases until it is safe for everyone to enjoy their films. Even though movie theaters have a legitimate place in communities around the world, they only offer one service: showing movies. The employees that work for any movie theater play an important role. But every job at that theater comes back to making the movie-going experience the best it can be. AMC Theatres offers a video on demand service, which means they have some more employees than a typical theater. However, Universal has different key components to their company. Besides the movie division, Universal also has a television department, with the ownership of NBC and other affiliated networks. Comcast is owned by Universal as well and they have four theme parks. Movie theaters have been financially impacted by the Coronavirus, but Universal Studios is also in the same boat.

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Universal Had Always Planned on Releasing Films Theatrically

When the CEOs of Regal and AMC Theaters have been asked about their decision to ban Universal’s movies, they have made it seem like Universal intentionally tried to hurt the movie theaters. Mooky Greidinger, the CEO of Regal’s parent company, Cineworld, said “not only did Universal provide no commitment for the future window – but Universal was the only studio that tried to take advantage of the current crisis and provide a ‘day-and-date’ release of a movie that was not yet released”. Meanwhile, Adam Aron, AMC’s CEO, said “this radical change by Universal to the business model that currently exists between our two companies represents nothing but downside for us and is categorically unacceptable to AMC Entertainment”. Despite AMC and Regal’s animosity toward Universal, Universal claims they never intended to shut the theaters out. The studio said in a response to AMC that “we expect to release future films directly to theatres, as well as on PVOD when that distribution outlet makes sense”. Their recent actions seem to match these words. One of the first films that was rescheduled due to the Coronavirus was the latest James Bond installment, No Time to Die. It will get a theatrical release, but not until November 25th. Fast and Furious 9 was also postponed, receiving a theatrical date next April. While Universal has released some of their titles on VOD, most of them were smaller films. One of these films was the 2020 remake of Jane Austin’s Emma. Similar to Trolls: World Tour, this movie was released around the “eye of the storm”. To make up for financial losses, Universal adapted to the global situation the best they could and tried to keep their business afloat.

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The Movie Theaters Have Weak Arguments

Before writing this editorial, I read several articles and watched several videos about this subject. I have come to the conclusion that the arguments presented by the movie theaters are very weak. In an article from the website, Pirates & Princesses, Kambrea reports that John Fithian, the President and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, stated “Universal heavily marketed the title as a theatrical release, in theaters and elsewhere, for weeks on end”. As I mentioned before in this editorial, Trolls: World Tour was released around the Coronavirus’ “eye of the storm”. Universal, or any other company, did not know how bad the Coronavirus was going to get. If this had never happened and things had gone according to plan, Universal would have continued to release Trolls: World Tour in theaters. Earlier in this editorial, I also mentioned that AMC Theatres has a video on demand service. If they offered Trolls: World Tour on this service, wouldn’t AMC and Universal benefit from that decision? Even though AMC and Regal have banned Universal’s projects, the studio is not the only one to put their upcoming movies on VOD. Kambrea, from Pirates & Princesses, reported how Disney’s Artemis Fowl, which had a May 29th theatrical release, will now receive a June 12th release date on Disney+. In theory, Disney did the exact same thing Universal did. However, AMC and Regal have not announced any plans to ban Disney’s films from being shown at their theaters. This makes the theaters look hypocritical.

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The 21st century has never experienced a medical situation of this magnitude before. Because of this, all divisions of the economy were forced to respond the best they could. This includes Universal, who have multiple components to their company. I don’t believe they did anything wrong by releasing Trolls: World Tour on VOD. If anything, the movie theaters’ reaction to this choice has made them appear out-of-touch with not only the digital consumer landscape, but also with how this virus has affected the financial health of the economy. I understand that movie theaters need to make money to keep the lights on. But intentionally hurting another business is not going to make the Coronavirus go away any sooner. This kind of mindset is what makes companies regress, reminding me a lot of Blockbuster’s demise. Just because we are “social-distancing” doesn’t mean we have to push each other away.

 

Sally Silverscreen

 

Here are the sources for this editorial:

Is PVOD The Future of Hollywood Releases? North America Theatre Owners Hope Not

‘Artemis Fowl’ Releasing to Disney+ on June 12th

AMC, Regal Ban Universal Movies From Their Theaters After Studio Throws Rock at Theatrical Window

Universal Responds To AMC: Studio Believes In Theatrical, But Expects To Release Movies Directly To Theatres & PVOD When “Outlet Makes Sense”

https://www.amctheatres.com/about/on-demand

Universal Studios Theme Park Locations Worldwide

https://www.cnet.com/how-to/watch-trolls-world-tour-birds-of-prey-sonic-hedgehog-streaming-now/

Movies Delayed Because of Coronavirus

https://www.universalstudios.com/

https://18cinemalane.wordpress.com/2020/03/13/word-on-the-street-fast-and-furious-9-postponed-to-the-following-year/

 

 

Why North Carolina’s Land of Oz should Host a Screening of The Wizard of Oz

One day, when I was on Pinterest, I came across a post that mentioned a theme park called Land of Oz. In this post, it was written that even though the park closed down in the early ‘80s, it was open on special occasions. I’ve read, watched videos, and seen photos of abandoned theme parks from all over the world. The fact that Land of Oz was only partially abandoned fascinated me, as I’ve heard about theme parks that were either completely abandoned, demolished, or restored. When I did more research about North Carolina’s precious gem, I learned that the park hosts a few events throughout the year. Their most popular event is Autumn at Oz, which, according to the park’s website and as of this post’s publication, now has two out of three sold out tiered ticket sections! While looking through the website, I noticed that there were no planned screenings of The Wizard of Oz. On the list of scheduled events during Autumn at Oz, there will be a movie exhibit in honor of the film’s eightieth anniversary. However, because of the anniversary, it seems like a screening of the film would be an obvious choice. This list is dedicated to explaining why North Carolina’s Land of Oz should host a movie screening of The Wizard of Oz. If it weren’t for the cultural impact of this film, this theme park wouldn’t exist. So, paying recognition to the thing that started it all would be a good thing for Land of Oz to do.

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Plenty of Opportunities

Land of Oz is a privately-owned space that hosts a few events throughout the year. These events give enthusiasts, families, and locals an excuse to explore this semi-abandoned amusement park and experience the festivities that are offered. Because of how broad the topic of The Wizard of Oz is, there are so many event ideas that could be implemented, including a screening of the film. With this, Land of Oz could provide another opportunity to open their doors to new and returning faces. It would also be a good way for the people associated with Land of Oz to make money, so that Land of Oz can continue to host events. If the people involved with Land of Oz chose not the host a screening of The Wizard of Oz as a stand-alone event, they could incorporate it into one of their existing events. For example, the screening could be included on the list of events for Autumn at Oz. For the guests, this screening would give them an opportunity to visit one of North Carolina’s most unique locations. While returning guests would be more than happy to come back to the “yellow brick road”, the screening could encourage new guests to visit the park. If the event were successful, the number of customers would continue to grow.

 

Taking Advantage of Nostalgia

At several theaters and through Fathom Events, screenings of pre-released films have become a common staple in the world of cinema. This is to capitalize on nostalgia and introduce people to films that are new to them. Everyone has that one movie that they hold close to their heart. For a large number of people, that film would be The Wizard of Oz. Hosting a screening of this film would let them relive memories and create new experiences. People who have never seen the film can witness it in an environment that makes the world of Oz seem like it’s coming to life around them. Fathom Events held a few screenings of The Wizard of Oz back in January. That’s because the people associated with Fathom Events realized the two aforementioned purposes that would make a film screening work. This screening would also show guests just how vast this cinematic property is. The film itself is not the “end all, be all” when it comes to this story. Land of Oz is just one example of how The Wizard of Oz can be incorporated into various media and outlets.

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A Charitable Contribution

Sometimes, movie screenings are held in an effort to raise money for a local non-profit. Events like this can be organized by larger groups or businesses. If Land of Oz wanted to get involved in helping their community, there are plenty of worthy causes to choose from. While guests are attending the park for the screening of The Wizard of Oz, they can become educated about the non-profit that they are choosing to support. Supporters will be enthusiastic about having their favorite charity represented by a business that cares about the cause like they do. This would be a win-win-win situation for Land of Oz. First, they would be given a chance to help out their fellow neighbor. Next, by assisting a local non-profit, they could create a positive image for themselves. Finally, a fundraiser and movie screening of The Wizard of Oz held at the Land of Oz would be great advertising for the business.

 

More Than Just a Screening

In my review of Jurassic Park, I shared that I had attended my very first Fathom Event screening. Within the introduction, I stated that the screening itself fell short of my expectations. This is because I was led to believe that the screening would be an event, complete with giveaways and announcers getting the audience excited about the film. For a screening of The Wizard of Oz, Land of Oz could create a whole event out of it. On their website, the park hosts an event during Autumn at Oz called Dining with Dorothy. People who purchase a ticket to this experience will get to share a meal with Dorothy herself. This specific event could also be included with the movie screening, if the people involved with Land of Oz chose to do so. There could also be contests and various activities, such as trivia and carnival games. Since Land of Oz has never hosted an event like this, the sky would be the limit! Through “trial and error” and listening to guest feedback, the event can grow as time goes on.

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Reaching the Emerald City

So, now that I’ve explained the reasons why North Carolina’s Land of Oz should host a movie screening of The Wizard of Oz, it’s time for me to summarize all of the main points that I’ve made. If the people associated with Land of Oz were to organize an event like this, I think there would be a lot of positives involved. It can be beneficial for both the business and its customers. Local non-profits could also benefit from this kind of event, as a portion of the money can go toward the charity of Land of Oz’s choice. Based on everything I’ve said, a movie screening of The Wizard of Oz held at Land of Oz has so much potential. The event could be stand-alone or incorporated with another event. The incentives that Land of Oz could use to encourage people to attend would be quite interesting. Looking back on what I know about this theme park, it seems like it has a growing fanbase. With new ideas and opportunities, that fanbase can continue to expand.

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

 

If you want to learn more about Land of Oz, visit their website at https://www.landofoznc.com/.