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AMC And Universal Duke It Out Over 'Trolls'

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Call it 'trolling' of a different kind, but AMC Theaters  (AMC) - Get AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. Class A Report is having none of Comcast's  (CMCSA) - Get Comcast Corporation Class A Report Universal Studios's talk about streaming movies to consumers at home first.

AMC will no longer screen films made by Universal Pictures after Universal opted to bypass theaters and release its “Trolls: World Tour” animated movie directly to consumers amid the coronavirus pandemic and global lockdown.

AMC CEO Adam Aron announced the ban in a letter to Universal Chairman Donna Langley, telling her that the decision was triggered by a quote NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell gave to The Wall Street Journal about the strong digital success of the animated kids sequel.

"Effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters in the United States, Europe or the Middle East," Aron said, adding that the policy is "not some hollow or ill-considered threat."

AMC does have a deal with Universal and other studios to "window" its movies in advance of their broader release. However, the pandemic has raised not only issues about whether studios can and should bypass those agreements and release content directly to consumers, but whether the movie-release rollout process overall should be re-examined.

Despite the war of words, the move has paid off for Universal, with the company earning nearly $100 million in rental fees since its digital release April 10.

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