When following the vlc android compilation instructions on Ubuntu 18.04.1, I ran into this issue here.

I found that you can get one of two error messages depending on whether it is the first or second time running ./compile.sh.

I automated the fix instructions from the above link.  Run from the root of the vlc-android repo:

sed -i 's/check automake 1.15/check automake 1.15.1/' vlc/extras/tools/bootstrap
sed -i 's/AUTOMAKE_VERSION=1.15/AUTOMAKE_VERSION=1.15.1/' vlc/extras/tools/packages.mak
sed -i '$a\f0d4717ebe2c76cec5d487de090f6e1c0f784b0d382fd964ffa846287e2a364a52531a26ab98b7033ac04ed302a247b3b114299def54819a03439bfc962ff61b  automake-1.15.1.tar.gz' vlc/extras/tools/SHA512SUMS