Universal Pictures promises that premium VOD releases won't replace theatrical movies for them in the future. The studio made headlines recently after revealing that Trolls World Tour, which skipped theaters and was released digitally earlier this month, was a major success. Universal then said, as a result, that they would continue with PVOD in the future. That ruffled some feathers with some of the nation's largest theater chains, namely AMC and Regal.
The issue for the chains is that this disrupts the traditional theatrical release window. Before the current shutdown, movies such as Trolls World Tour would play in theaters for nearly three months before they could be released on home video. The PVOD model would change that. During a recent earnings call, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell had this to say about it.
"I've spent a big chunk of the last decade in the film business and there is no question that theatrical is someday again going to be the central element to our business and the film business itself and how people make their movies and how they expect their movies to be seen. But the flip side is the majority of movies, whether we like it or not, are being consumed at home and it's not realistic to assume that we're not going to change, that this part of the business is not going to change like all parts of the business are going to change."
In recent years, largely thanks to the rise of streaming services like Netflix, an increasing number of high-profile movies are indeed being watched at home instead of at movie theaters. Be that as it may, the traditional theatrical window was something that exhibitors have battled hard to keep in place as they fear making new movies available at home to rent for a premium will hurt their business. Speaking further, Jeff Shell explained that he expects a combination of both methods of distribution will be part of Universal's business strategy in the future.
"The question is, when we come out of this, what is gonna be the model? And I would expect that consumers are gonna return to the theaters and we will be a part of that. And I also would expect that PVOD is gonna be part of that offering in some way. It's not gonna be a replacement, but it's gonna be a complementary element and we're just gonna have to see how long that takes and where that takes us."
Trolls World Tour and other new movies, such as the upcoming The King of Staten Island and Scoob, which are also skipping theaters in favor of a digital release, would have gone to theaters under normal circumstances. But these are not normal circumstances. Regardless, the floodgates have been open and it is difficult to reverse course now.
It's expected that theaters will begin opening up again in July. The question of just how willing people will be in terms of going to theaters again remains a hugely important one. If attendance numbers decline, which is expected to be the case, Universal and other studios are likely to maintain PVOD as an ongoing practice, whether theater owners like it or not. This news was previously reported by The Wrap,