The sequel to the animated film has earned nearly $100 million in rental fees domestically for the studio since it was released digitally on April 10, the same day it was set to be released in theaters, a person familiar with the matter confirmed to CNN Business.
Studios and movie theaters share about 50% of a film’s box office grosses, but studios get a bigger slice of the digital pie, bringing in around 80% of sales. That means Universal has made roughly $77 million from the digital release of “World Tour” so far.
The original “Trolls” movie, which was released in theaters in 2016, brought in $153 million domestically, or about $76 million after the split with theaters. That means “World Tour,” which came with a rental fee of $19.99, has made more for Universal in three weeks with a digital release than its predecessor made in five months theatrically in North America.
At first glance, those numbers are pretty alarming for the movie theater industry, which has had to shut its doors around the world because of the coronavirus outbreak. However, there are several factors that should be considered when assessing the big digital success of “World Tour” in relation to the future of the movie theater industry.
For starters, home viewership is way up right now with millions sheltering in place and starving for content. That doesn’t take away from the success of “World Tour,” but less competition from sports or other pastimes means more eyeballs for the film. The film also has a long way to go before it matches the global success of the original, which made more than $346 million worldwide in 2016.
Still, it’s difficult to know if studios are simply making the best of a terrible situation or if the digital release strategy of “World Tour” is the future of the film business.
Of course, if Universal really believed that going to the movies — and the box office grosses that comes with it — was a relic of the past, audiences would likely be watching “F9” at home right now and not in theaters next April.