Movies and shows on digital platforms are receiving a lot of attention at the moment, with people practising social distancing to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic. This seems to have worked in favour of Universal’s Trolls World Tour, which released on 10 April on premium video-on-demand services and a handful of drive-in cinemas. Universal claims that the movie, which is a sequel of the 2016 Trolls, received the biggest debut for a digital release.
Trolls World Tour is the first major title to bypass a traditional theatre release and come out primarily on digital media, paving the way for, probably, the new era of cinema release.
Although Universal refused to release any statistics in support of the claim, they noted that Trolls World Tour is the number 1 title across major on-demand platforms such as Amazon, Comcast, Apple and FandangoNow. The studio had made the DreamWorks Animation title available to rent of premium VOD for 48 hours for $19.99. The drastic step was taken after theatres all over the world closed down to tackle the spread of the coronavirus. Trolls World Tour is notable since it is the first major big-budget film to break the standard theatrical window of 90 days and open on home entertainment platforms simultaneously.
Although most big-budget films have opted to delay their release due to the theatre closures, Trolls World Tour decided to go ahead with their release dates since the studio was deep into its marketing campaign for the film. This included several brand partnerships which would have proved too costly to release it at a later date.
Other studios have followed the same tactic as Universal. Paramount sold romantic comedy movie The Loverbirds to Netflix. The movie stars Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae. On the other hand, Disney decided to release Artemis Fowl, the sci-fi fantasy film, straight to its streaming platform Disney+ – which recently crossed 50 million subscribers worldwide.
Other Universal movies that were released to VOD platforms like Blumhouse’s The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Focus Features’ Emma are also enjoying good viewings since people are staying at home.
However, it is unclear whether Trolls World Tour will be able to make as much money through digital platforms as it would have made in theatres and then home entertainment. It is to be noted here that premium VOD figures are not reported like traditional box office grosses. Additionally, since there is not much data to compare it with, Universal is likely to wait to get a clearer picture of the results before releasing any statistics.
Whatever be the case, experts are wondering if it will truly be possible for Trolls World Tour to make a profit after not releasing to theatres at all, considering how much big-budget movies rely on theatre ticket sales.
Trolls was a moderate hit when it hit theatres back in 2016. It earned around $350 million globally on a budget of $125 million. This time around, Universal budget was around $100 million, additionally spending tens of millions for marketing.