Universal continues to frustrate, alienate and confuse cinema and drive-in operators. Along with the news, Friday, that the studio had pushed the Tom Hanks post-apocalyptic movie Bios back to 2021, amidst a slew of Warner Bros. schedule changes late in the afternoon, the studio also yanked The King of Staten Island abruptly from theaters around the country who were told they were not able to show the film, despite pre-selling tickets.
Bios, from Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment will move from its original October 2, 2020 scheduled date to April 16, 2021. The film tells the story of a robot on a post-acpocalypse Earth, built to protect the life of his dying creator’s dog, he comes to learn of love and the meaning of human life. Tom Hanks plays the dying creator of the evolving robot. Hanks plays Finch who, while terminally ill, creates the robot (Jeff) to watch over his dog (Goodyear) after he’s gone. The trio embarks on a journey into the American West while Finch shows his creation what it means to be human, while trying to encourage his dog to accept and trust the new robot master.
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Universal made other waves in the industry by outraging theater operators as they pulled The King of Staten Island after cinemas had already pre-sold tickets and prepared to open the film. After promoting and pre-selling the film, they had to scramble to offer refunds and find another movie to replace at their showings for the weekend. Universal gave no reason for the hasty move, leaving exhibitors with even greater frustration for the studio than they had already after the debacle with Universal moving Trolls World Tour directly to video during the shutdown this spring. Operators were angry and frustrated, feeling the studio is abandoning them and rushing to digital release.
In a similar move, Universal, with Blumhouse Productions had decided earlier in the week to push the supernatural thriller, You Should Have Left to premium video on demand (PVOD) instead of debuting the title in theaters. The Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried thriller will show up next week, on June 19th for home rental. Universal has already thrown down the gauntlet, saying during the shutdown that they intend to pursue direct to video releases in any cases they decide makes sense for them.
Reacting to that news, AMC and Cineworld (the second largest global chain and owner of Regal in the U.S.) boycotted Universal movies and called into doubt whether they would even line up to play F9, Minions or Sing 2 when all 3 movies finally release in 2021 on their delayed schedules. Universal, with their latest moves this week doesn’t seem to care and is only showing they are happy and willing to leave the exhibitors high and dry fielding angry customer refund demands while Universal stays behind the scenes pulling levers to try to wring more money out of the system.
Many in the industry that we spoke to secretly hope that AMC and Cineworld, hopefully joined by Cinemark, Marcus and others, will hold Universal accountable and show the studios once and for all that they need a healthy theatrical window. Others exhibitors, though, quietly tip that professional sports and even concert events that will be hurting for audiences in the post-crisis world appear only too happy to scoop up the screen space that may be left abandoned by big studio exodus.
This news arrives courtesy of Variety and The Wrap.
Long-time sporadic contributor to MovieWeb & TVweb. I favor movies with explosions and gun fights and TV that looks like movies. I also follow and cover the business of Life, cinema and streaming.