The latest offering from Universal Studios, Trolls World Tour, broke new ground by passing over a theatrical release in favor of a completely digital debut. It was a daring but necessary experiment to test the market potential of video-on-demand options against traditional box-office earnings. Now, Universal has announced that their film scored the biggest opening day and weekend of any digital title in history.
The news comes as something of a mixed bag in terms of market analysis. For one thing, there are no solid numbers available for the money made by the film’s debut to rent on premium VOD for $19.99. What we do know is that Trolls World Tour secured the biggest opening day and opening weekend ever for any digital title. The film is the No. 1 title across all major on-demand platforms, including Amazon, Comcast, Apple, Vudu, Google/YouTube, DirecTV, and FandangoNOW.
While studios are hoping that a good performance by the film through VOD will provide a framework for making digital debuts for movies a more mainstream choice, not everyone is rooting for the experiment to succeed. An association of theater owners across America have made their displeasure known with Universal’s decision to release their film online instead of waiting for a theatrical debut after the lockdown ends.
If the success of Trolls World Tour makes digital film debuts the new norm, theaters, which are already hard hit by the global lockdown, will be forced to close shop, costing thousands of jobs. And yet, in the present circumstances, with studios hemorrhaging money due to being unable to release their new films in theaters, any method of distribution that results in a profit is seen as a godsend.
Thus, studios and theater owners the world over will be watching with bated breath to see how audiences take to Trolls World Tour. The film tells the story of Princess Poppy and Branch, the two trolls from the original Trolls film, voiced by Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake. The two come to learn of the existence of entire tribes of trolls similar to them, each tribe with its own distinct style of music, and all the tribes battling for dominance through a series of elaborately choreographed sing-offs.
This sets the stage for a bright, pop musical as Poppy and Branch travel through the other tribes on a quest to stop the villainess, Queen Barb, from gathering the six strings belonging to each tribe, whose combination would allow Barb to play a power chord that would enslave every other troll. The reviews for the movie have praised its visual aesthetic, and soundtrack while criticizing the shallow plot which seems more geared towards selling merchandise rather than telling an original story.
For parents dealing with children stuck indoors for many days, the arrival of the movie is a welcome relief, which explains the film’s dominance of the VOD charts. What kind of success the film manages in the long run, and what lessons Hollywood leans from that success, remains to be seen. The Hollywood Reporter brought us this news first.