Since our global pandemic began, movie theatres have closed down and countless films have been put on pause and postponed. However, not all decided to hold off releasing during COVID. Universal’s Trolls: The World Tour opted to roll with the punches and debuted to TVs on-demand April 10 — and its success has other studios considering the method of releasing movies.
The animated film follows the 2016 Trolls movie, whose star-studded cast features Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, James Corden, Zooey Deschanel, and more. Although the sequel didn’t hit theatres for its opening day, it did make quite a splash debuting on-demand. The $19.99 rental fee broke records, with Universal reporting that it scored the biggest opening day and opening weekend for a digital title. The Wall Street Journal reported that this sequel made more for Universal in three weeks than the original Trolls did in five months in theatres.
More recently, the new animated Scoob! movie followed in Trolls’ footsteps and skipped their theatre release, going straight to homes on-demand for $24.99 on May 15. Several other films switched from theatre to on-demand once they closed down, but few have released straight to homes.
These films have shown people across the world just how well movies can do when bypassing the theatres. Consumers love the convenience and easy access; videos on-demand allow eager movie watchers to get their hands on new releases much quicker and more easily than going to the theatre. And they can do so from the comfort of their homes with the click of a button. With the majority of the world having been stuck at home, it’s no wonder people are eating up these new releases.
Holly Penton, a local mother of three, says she prefers watching movies at home on-demand versus going to the theatre with her family. “It’s way cheaper, easier to pause and take bathroom breaks, less chance of (catching) sicknesses, and leaves the ability to still cook dinner,” she says. Penton appreciates the money saved and the convenience at home movies provide for her young family.
The recent success of on-demand releases will likely cause movie companies to reconsider how they debut movies. Although it’s unlikely theatres will be taken out of the equation, it is possible we could see more movies being released straight to homes on-demand, even post-pandemic. After all, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trolls: The World Tour grossed around 100 million dollars in three weeks, a profit that normally would have been shared with theatres. It begs the question, could the pandemic have unintentionally made on-demand releases a popular new way for releasing blockbuster movies?
Dr. D. Garfinkle, instructor of popular culture at MacEwan University, speculates that the switch to direct to TV mini-film release model has already paid off in profits, such as for HBO, and for Netflix — as seen in series like Game of Thrones. “The model is popular and profitable,” he says. “Over the last few years, we are seeing many more film companies/projects producing original content for direct to TV subscription. There is now far more original content creation being produced in that delivery model than ever before.” Garfinkle says that the introduction of “digital steaming” has led companies like YouTube, BBC TV, and Disney to join HBO and Netflix in the direct-to-TV release by subscription model.
Garfinkle says he believes the pandemic could affect the future content of TV films, and speculates that both the quantity and quality of original productions will increase. “Imagine if the world slow-down for the pandemic results in a mini baby boom, say in January of 2021, all that snuggling with loved ones at home results in a population boost to the millennial generation. When we assume that the millennials are the economic engine as the primary consumers of the direct to TV market, when they have kids, the family will continue to consume under the direct to TV model.” This results in an increase in the number of consumers and a market niche that blends content for adults and young children. With a market featuring more intergenerational blended content and an increased quality of production, Garfinkle says it will be more readily available than ever before.
Most movie lovers can agree that nothing beats the taste of fresh movie theatre popcorn, however, consumers could find themselves more often getting the content they desire right at home on-demand. Although we are unlikely to lose the movie theatre experience altogether — including the butter station — it is possible we will see more big movies coming straight to our homes, even after our global pandemic ends.
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