Starting in a Crisis but Representing the New Normal?
In the modern digital age of direct-to-streaming films, studios and production companies have long contemplated the idea of releasing movies straight to home video markets at the same time as their theatrical debuts. Over the past few years, the gap between films’ theatrical runs and their home video releases has only shrunk, and the line has further greyed with rising numbers of nontraditional release platforms, or forgone theatrical runs altogether.
By and large, though, theaters have still maintained their relevancy. However, that has changed over the past couple months. Right now, theaters are shutdown across the globe because of the coronavirus and many recent releases have been expedited to Video-On-Demand markets. The most conspicuous of these expedited releases is that of DreamWorks’ “Trolls: World Tour,” which made history as the first film to get a VOD and theatrical release on the same day.
Releasing “Trolls: World Tour” like this was a bit of a gamble. Like many other movies, “World Tour” simply could have postponed its premiere for a more stable time. Nevertheless, the VOD release it seems to have paid off. The film came out on April 10th and has already earned Universal Studios $50 million. For comparison’s sake, the movie’s 2016 predecessor—simply titled “Trolls”—earned $46.6 million for its opening weekend in the theaters and overall had a $346.9 million Box Office run.
“Trolls: World Tour” will not have an enormous Box Office success given all of the theaters closed right now. However, it will arguably make more off of its VOD rentals than it ever would during a traditional theatrical period.
Granted, this is an unusual time. “World Tour” and its home release are probably benefitting from the isolated audiences practicing social distancing. Likewise, the film costs $19.99 On-Demand, a price that emulates that of a movie ticket, but is noticeably more than that of a regular VOD rental. The movie also garnered some extra attention as the first film to execute this unconventional release platform. Lastly, it is a family comedy appropriate for kids and adults alike to watch on a common screen. All of this considered, the VOD success of “World Tour” might be an anomaly tied to beginner’s luck and the current circumstances.
Virtual “Box office” Cume is nothing to Sneeze at
Nevertheless, the entertainment experiment that is “Trolls: World Tour” has still proven fruitful, raising the question of whether or not other movies will follow in its footsteps. If “World Tour” can get $50 million in its first week On-Demand, maybe the persistent gap between theaters and home markets has become futile. Perhaps moviegoers are content to watch a new picture at home for the same price of seeing it on the big screen.
The nullification of theatrical releases would naturally be bad news for the theater companies, but it would give streaming sites and tech companies a leg up in the entertainment market. It would also completely transform the industry release pipeline that has persisted for the past century. This potential change, however, will not manifest overnight. “Trolls: World Tour” simply demonstrates that a corresponding VOD and theatrical release can be financially effective, and it may spark an evolution in the enduring movie distribution model.
“Trolls: World Tour” is a PG-rated animated comedy-musical. Walt Dohrn directs alongside David P Smith, and the voice cast includes Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Rachel Bloom, James Cordon, and many more. It is available on Amazon’s new Prime Cinema hub alongside other VOD expedited titles such as “The Invisible Man,” “Emma,” “The Way Back,” “Bloodshot,” “Birds Of Prey” and others.
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