Movie theaters have never had it worse. After a long-losing battle with streaming, the currently shuttered complexes were already scared they would never again hear the halted pitter-patter of feet on their forever sticky floors. And now, this industry cornerstone which has survived television, smell-o-vision, and theater shootings may just have been dealt a killing blow. By these guys:
Big-budget movies going straight to rental was once a sign the film was more valuable as a tax write-off for a producer with a yacht addiction than as a valid cinematic contribution. However, that prejudice has just been shattered once and for all by the Video-On-Demand release Trolls World Tour. At a time of ongoing lockdowns, Dreamwork's continuing saga of a bunch of colorful blobs singing a random hour of Sirius XM hits has been massively popular with bored children and parents missing their commute. In three weeks, the VOD release made nearly $100 million -- five million rentals at $20 a pop -- which is more than what the first movie made in five months of box office sales.
This unexpected VOD success has made Troll's studio Universal more than a bit cocky, with NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell announcing that "[a]s soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats" at the same time. It's a massive betrayal of the blood pact studios made with movie theaters, who, under normal circumstances, must let their movies ride the box office exclusively for at least two months before dumping them online. In response, AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron has tried to nip this treasonous talk in the bud by announcing he will boycott screening all Universal movies in his 1,000 global theaters until the studio comes to its senses.
And while in his very, very pissy letter, Aron is right to imply that Trolls World Tour is only so successful because it has virtually no competition, and at this point in the pandemic parents would remortgage their house to pay for something that shuts their kids up during Zoom meetings, the damage may already have been done. On the very same day as Universal's announcement, the Academy Awards, overlooking the vast wasteland that are 2020 theater releases, is allowing direct-to-digital releases into its nominations (a temporary measure, they lie). So in a time where streaming is prestigious, everyone has panic bought a 4K TV, and as a result, a Troll Doll VOD sequel can make $100 million without breaking a sweat. Now movie theaters may no longer have anything unique to guarantee their survival. Maybe it's time to bring back smell-o-vision.
Cedric is on Twitter and, despite the four previous paragraphs, really encourages you to support your local theater.
Top Image: Universal Pictures