As the COVID-19 pandemic started hitting Hollywood hard last month, studios had to start making major decisions regarding their slates. With theaters closed, movies could no longer be released as planned, and so various companies had to start looking at different options.
Most titles that were set to come out following the start of social distancing protocols have simply switched their dates, opting to hope that everything will be back to normal by late summer, but Universal Pictures took a different tactic with Walt Dohrn and David P. Smith's Trolls World Tour. Instead of trying to find a new weekend for the animated feature, the studio instead opted to make the film available on its original date on VOD – and according to them, the strategy has been successful.
Trolls World Tour was made available for rental on digital platforms this past Saturday, and per Variety, Universal is declaring that the release has been so popular that it has broken records. According to the studio, the movie had the biggest debut ever for a digital release, and was ranked as the number one film by major platforms, including Amazon, Apple, and FandangoNow (which also announced that they had the best weekend sales since the launch of the service).
Those who wish to watch Trolls World Tour need to do little more than visit one of the aforementioned websites and purchase a rental for $19.99. Some have noted that this is a pretty high price for any individual looking to watch the film, as the average movie ticket price in America is approximately $9.26, but that viewpoint doesn't take into consideration the money that Universal is losing from families by opting to release the animated sequel online instead of in theaters. Based on that same average ticket price mentioned above, a family of four would have to spend nearly twice as much money at the theater – so parents are saving a fair amount of money.
Unfortunately, tracking exactly how Trolls World Tour is doing financially isn't really something that's doable just yet. Universal has not actually released any hard numbers regarding the number of rentals across all platforms, so we can't really say how much money the film has earned thus far. When it was released back in 2016, the first Trolls wound up making $346.9 million before the end of its run, and one has to wonder if it is actually possible for the follow-up to make that much being exclusively on VOD. The new film reportedly cost $100 million to make, and that doesn't include publicity and marketing costs.
Given that Trolls World Tour is a novel release in these bizarre times, we will continue to follow its progress here on CinemaBlend – and also see if other studios start following similar strategies (for example, Disney has already announced that they will have Artemis Fowl skip theaters and digital rental and go straight to Disney+). Stay tuned for all of the latest updates as the industry continues to navigate strange waters.