NBC Universal has been quick to celebrate the OnDemand purchase numbers for Trolls World Tour, but the other noise around the animated movie hasn’t been all positive. Theater chains took exception to how it was released. Some of the financial projections aren’t super rosy, and now, there’s a rumor going around that some of the stars, specifically Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, weren’t informed about the change in release plans until it was made public and now want to be compensated for box office benchmarks they could have hit with a more conventional rollout.
Neither of the stars has spoken publicly about their feelings, but The Hollywood Reporter discusses the position in a comprehensive write-up about Trolls World Tour. In it, the outlet claims Timberlake, Kendrick and others weren’t told the movie was moving to streaming before it was publicly announced, and their representatives are allegedly now asking for bonus compensation thought to be in the millions. Now, this is particularly important because the contracts big names sign to do movies, particularly ones geared toward children or ones with unclear box office projections, often have bonus payments that are unlocked if certain box office targets are met.
Exactly how much a studio may or may not be making off a movie is often the subject of fierce debate. It’s not always clear what percent of box office grosses studios are keeping, and how much was spent on production budgets, marketing and consulting fees is often even murkier. The stories around the movies Hollywood still claims are unprofitable are legendary. That’s why stars and their agents have increasingly looked toward bonuses that are triggered by box office performance. Those numbers are widely available to the public, giving all involved access to the same information.
That’s not the case with Premium Video OnDemand, nor with things like Blu-ray sales and streaming fees, and it now sets up the question of what stars should or should not get when the release format of the movie is changed. It’s easy to see competing arguments on both sides, and if there’s one thing that is certain, it’s how intently others in Hollywood are watching this entire thing play out, though some seem to be watching with much pessimism.
Executives from rival studios who seem to have spoken off the record to THR for this piece appear confident Trolls World Tour is actually going to lose money, despite the PVOD grosses. That’s based largely on how much the studio reportedly spent on the film and an assumption that the in-home buys will depress rentals, Blu-ray purchases, etc. That’s still an open question. Universal reportedly is speculating it can make as much as $40M, though that could prove complicated if foreign theaters refuse to play Trolls World Tour when it opens back up.
We’ll let you know if/ when Justin Timberlake and/ or Anna Kendrick decides to publicly comment on what’s going on here. Either way, expect plenty more comments from Universal, other studios, theater chains and other companies within the industry who are all fascinated/ angered by this experiment.