Universal appeared to have a hit on their hands with the direct-to-VOD release of Trolls: World Tour, and now its stars are looking to reap the studio’s reward.
According to a recent report from The Hollywood Reporter, Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick were not informed ahead of time about the change of plans to release the film to rent for $20 online. Typically, compensation for celebrities in animated features is largely tied to box office bonuses. Reps for the actors are now looking to be paid compensation up to seven figures tied to the revenues, particularly after Universal claimed that the film brought in nearly $100 million domestically with its VOD release.
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However, despite the studio’s boasting, it appears that Trolls: World Tour may not be as successful as they thought. Industry experts speculate that with the film still millions in red, it may never turn a real profit. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “A source with firsthand knowledge of the studio’s thinking says that despite the doubters, Universal believes it can make $40 million or more in profit from all revenue sources.”
“They probably overhyped it,” Hal Vogel of Vogel Capital Management told The Hollywood Reporter. “But like most people in the business, they haven’t had a lot of success in the past two or three months, so any ray of sunshine helps.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, April 28, that the DreamWorks film, distributed by Universal, had earned $100 million from premium on-demand rentals in its first three weeks of availability. In the report, Shell indicated that Universal plans to release future films in theaters and on-demand simultaneously, as soon as it is possible to do so.
“The results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell told the publication. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”
As a result of said statements, AMC, which is the largest theater chain in the world, responded with a strongly worded letter from CEO Adam Aron. The addressed letter to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley, calls Shell’s comments “categorically unacceptable” and states that the theater chain will refuse to screen any of Universal’s movies for the foreseeable future.
In addition to Aron’s letter, the National Association of Theatre Owners also responded to NBCUniversal CEO’s remarks, issuing a statement that said Trolls World Tour‘s VOD success “should not be interpreted as a sign of a ‘new normal’ for Hollywood.”
Typically, movie theaters require a 90-day window for films to play on their screens before appearing on VOD and digital platforms. As the current ongoing public health situation has forced many theaters worldwide to close its doors, many studios have been releasing select films directly to these digital platforms, opting out of theatrical runs altogether.