For additional context to the news yesterday that Universal is sending another one of its planned summer releases to VOD instead of waiting for the end of the coronavirus pandemic and the reopening of global movie theaters, check out this story in the Wall Street Journal. Examining the financial results of Universal’s first straight-to-VOD blockbuster, this spring’s Troll World Tour, they found that the movie was an enormous — and possibly groundbreaking — success.

The Journal writes that Trolls World Tour’s success at home was comparable to the first movie’s success in theaters:

Trolls World Tour has racked up nearly $100 million in rentals. 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.

There are some important caveats to this news. The first Trolls made a significant amount of money in theaters — and then even more on home video and VOD. Trolls World Tour may have grossed the equivalent of a theatrical release on VOD, but it’s safe to say it probably would have made that much in theaters and then made even more during its traditional run on the secondary home market. Plus, some of Trolls World Tour’s success surely has to do with the fact that parents were desperate for entertainment options for their kids — the movie had almost no competition among new releases at the time, or from most other means of family entertainment, since parents and kids were trapped at home.

Basically, Trolls World Tour has done very well, and perhaps as well as any movie could possibly have done under extraordinary circumstances, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that when all of this is over theaters are going to go the way of the dodo. There are some movies that are so big they could never make enough money just on VOD to justify their cost. You are going to have to wait until movie theaters reopen to see those kinds of films again.

Gallery — More Movies That Got Early VOD Releases:

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