One of Kansas City’s last remaining corporate titans is fighting for its life.
The venerable AMC Theatres – founded by local movie visionary Stan Durwood – is going toe-to-toe with Universal Studios, one of Hollywood’s most distinguished moviemakers.
“The movie theater industry can’t afford the fight AMC just picked,” reads one headline. “Movie theaters need film studios more than the studios need theaters,” reads another.
Unfortunately for the local good guys, both headlines are correct.
The sad reality being that not just AMC – but movie theaters in general – could be one of the biggest victims of the coronavirus pandemic.
The closing of theaters has forced moviemakers to hold back blockbusters like the new James Bond, Fast and Furious and Mulan.
So Universal decided to release its Trolls World Tour as a $19.99 rental, which thus far has grossed nearly $100 million and become the biggest digital movie release ever.
Much to AMC and exhibiters like Regal and Cinemark’s chagrin.
“Trolls was anticipated to be one of the big spring movies,” says KC Confidential movie man Jack Poessiger. “So I think it would have done about the same money at the box office had all the theaters not been closed. But it performed well on pay-per-view – better than might have been expected – and normally movies don’t release their pay-per-view numbers. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever seen it.”
AMC wasn’t about to take it sitting down – especially after the head of Universal said,”As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”
At the same time – or as they say in the movie biz – “day and date.”
The standard procedure has been to release blockbuster films in theaters, prior to easing them into pay-per-view and DVD months later.
That prompted AMC to say that under the circumstances, it would no longer screen Universal movie offerings.
Think of it as a dangerous game of chicken – one that if it backfires and more movie studios follow Universal’s lead, could result in AMC taking a bullet.
After all, who doesn’t have a giant, flat screen television and surround sound system in their home these days.
Which not only makes it pretty easy to not just social distance, but also to save a ton of time and money while watching movies at the time of your choosing.
Part of the irony here is that KC-based AMC is wholly owned by a Chinese company, in the country that unleashed the coronavirus on the world.
The $64 billion question being, who will blink first, Universal or AMC?
The jury’s out, Poessiger says.
“Many in the industry think that releasing a movie on the big screen first, elevates it when it comes out later on pay-per-view, streaming or DVD,” he says. “That it adds a higher value. That a theatrical run – even if it loses a little money – can act as a trailer for the film on pay-per-view and DVD.”
ALMS FOR THE KC STAR UPDATE
The curious attempt by the Kansas City Star to try and raise $200,000 by begging readers to contribute so they can afford to pay their writers, is up and running.
In one week’s time, the Star has taken in more than 17 grand in online, “tax free” donations, funneled through a tiny Michigan nonprofit.
The question being, how can a small nonprofit grant tax free status to monies directed to a for profit biz like the Star?
And while nobody’s saying what percentage of the dough goes to the Star – or how long the Internal Revenue Service will allow things to continue, the $25 and up donations trickle in.
Including a $1,000 donation from former Star sportswriter Wright Thompson, now with ESPN.
Heard on the street.
Going down: How bad are things at KC’s newspaper of record? Pretty bad.
In addition to its parent company filing bankruptcy and more than a dozen years of layoffs and cutbacks, the pandemic has lead to yet more cuts, furloughs and anemic advertising. Two Sundays back, the Star only had two ad inserts and Menards looks to have abandoned ship.
Worse yet, the newspaper’s vaunted sports section last Sunday was reduced to a scant three pages – that’s right, three pages.
The bottom line being hand-wringing, one dimensional reporting with sensationalized headlines about COVID-19 is not keeping the wolf away from the door.
Pretty sad, actually.
(When you can’t find Hearne in The Landmark, you can find him at kcconfidential.com)