Universal plans to continue digital releases after Trolls: World Tour success
James R | On 28, Apr 2020
Universal has said that it plans to continue releasing films digitally alongside their theatrical releases, after enjoying success with its straight-to-digital release of Trolls: World Tour.
The animated sequel, starring Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, debuted online earlier this month at the point at which it was originally planned to hit cinemas worldwide. The decision to distribute it digitally instead followed Universal’s similar move to release The Hunt, The Invisible Man and Emma early on VOD, after their theatrical runs were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing cinema closures.
Trolls: World Tour, like those three films, were released as Premium VOD titles, with the price of £15.99 for a 48-hour rental – argued to be the equivalent of a(n expensive) cinema ticket. In its first few weeks, the film took in a reported $100 million in North America, with the Wall Street Journal reporting an estimated 5 million rentals.
NBCUni CEO Jeff Shell told the paper that the results “exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD”. Shell added that “as soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats”.
The statement is a bold one at a point when the industry will be watching closely to see how things shake out in the wake of the coroanvirus pandemic, after a long time of negotiations between exhibitors and distributors to determine the role digital distribution has to play in Hollywood’s future. At present, AMC and other major cinema operators refuse to screen Netflix or Amazon Prime Video titles that break the theatrical window or are released day-and-date online. In the UK, Cineworld pulled its support of BAFTA after the British Academy resisted calls to make Netflix and Amazon titles ineligible for awards.