This weekend was meant to host “No Time to Die” (United Artists), which would have likely opened to $100 million+ domestic. When that became the first release to reschedule, “Trolls World Tour” (Universal) moved up a week to Easter — and then, to become the first film to debut on VOD. Four weeks later, it remains by far the highest-profile title to eschew initial theatrical release. Only three other titles — Paramount’s “The Love Birds” (sold to Netflix), Disney’s “Artemis Fowl” (they will now stream it), and STX’s comedy “I Spy” (a future Amazon Prime film) — have announced similar plans.
Budgeted around $100 million, “Trolls World Tour” is not a throwaway movie. Still, even if is a success, it is not a perfect case study: It’s a sequel, and an ideal offering for family audiences stuck at home (where a 48-hour rental for $19.99 make it a good deal cheaper than a family of four going to a theater).
As for its success… well, for two days it has been #1 on Amazon Prime, a chart that ranks by number of transactions (and without translating into monetary value). Earlier, “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Bad Boys for Life” initially ranked in the top two, although they offered ownership via download, while “Trolls” is rental only (a real drawback, since popular kids’ titles, once seen at home, often get long-term repeat viewings).
iTunes seems to be lagging, or perhaps it has less of a family audience. All we can tell, without seeing more than placement, is it ranked where we’d expect. Without Universal revealing results, we won’t know if it is a success.
With one caveat. The studio will know the results, and that data will tell them if other delayed, or undated, titles might warrant similar release. But at this point, the other titles going for home play are all headed to streaming, not transactional premium VOD.
Sources tell IndieWire that the 10 drive-ins playing “Trolls” (and reporting grosses) took in around $40,000 for Friday and Saturday. This is likely the bulk of all open theaters. In a pandemic, drive-in movie watching has appeal: It’s the only new film, and a legal excuse (in some states) to take the family out, and with lower admission prices, it’s cheaper than home viewing. We don’t have access to exact figures, but those who do suggest that for these drive ins, the take was in the range of what would be expected this time of year.
Curiously, this came up at New York Gov. Cuomo’s Sunday press conference and he indicated that he would look into whether the drive-ins might be allowed to reopen (or in a more northern climate, open for the season). But other than “Trolls,” they won’t be looking at new films, at least for now.
As expected, the news remains very good for leading streamers. All streamers are reporting high levels of viewership and increased subscriptions. Netflix’s reality tv/documentary “Tiger King” had 34 million unique views over its first 10 days (“Avengers: Endgame” got close to that from theater patrons in its initial weekend). Disney+ reported it reached 50 million worldwide subscribers. (Netflix has three times as many.)