'Trolls: World Tour' Made More Money In Three Weeks On VOD Than The First Film Made In Five Months At Theaters

Is the age of going to the movies officially dead? No, probably not. But studios are bound to start thinking differently about digital VOD releases now thanks to Trolls: World Tour. In the wake of the coronavirus shutting down movie theaters, Universal made the then-unprecedented decision to release the animated sequel directly to VOD – and it looks like it's a decision that paid off. Because the film has made more money in three weeks on VOD than the first Trolls made in five months at domestic theaters.

Will more and more studios start sending their movies directly to VOD during the coronavirus pandemic? There was a time when such an idea would be unthinkable, but these aren't ordinary times we find ourselves in. And one studio is reaping big rewards. Universal drew the ire of theater owners when they announced they were sending Trolls: World Tour direct to VOD, but according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal, "in three weeks of digital release, [Trolls: World Tour] has made more money for Universal Pictures than original did during five months in theaters." Here are more details:

"With nearly five million rentals, the digital release has in three weeks generated more revenue for Universal than the original "Trolls" did during its five-month theatrical run, according to a person familiar with the matter. Its performance has convinced Universal executives that digital releases can be a winning strategy, and may diminish the role of theaters even after the pandemic passes."

"The results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD," said Jeff Shell, head of  NBCUniversal. "As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats."

Trolls: World Tour has earned $100 million in rental fees, and the biggest benefit to Universal is that they're keeping most of the money. With theatrically released films, studios only earn around 50% of the ticket sales. But with VOD releases, the studio hauls in 80%. Which means Trolls 2 has netted Universal more $77 million in revenue. As WSJ adds, "that means Trolls World Tour has generated about $95 million in rental fees from nearly five million customers since its release, based on revenue figures cited by the person familiar with the matter, who didn't dispute the estimate."

Of course, it should also be noted that the Trolls: World Tour digital release had absolutely no competition. At the time, it was the only major release to go straight to VOD, and it dropped just when families needed something to distract their stir-crazy kids. That no doubt helped the film out greatly. Still, the potential profits may be too enticing for other studios to ignore. And while I have no doubt that huge blockbusters like Marvel titles will hold fast to their theatrical plans, I wouldn't be surprised if other big movies start jumping onto the direct-to-VOD bandwagon.