‘Trolls World Tour’ May Have Just Killed Movie Theaters

The first Trolls movie kicked off with a $46 million opening weekend when it came out in 2016. Its sequel, Trolls World Tour, more than doubled that number, raking in $95 million in its first 19 days of video-on-demand, making it one of the first direct-to-home-video smash hits. The first Trolls film made about $120 million in its first 19 days, but theaters take a larger cut than online distributors like Apple and Google, who generally only keep 30% compared to the 40-60% theaters keep at different parts of the release window, the studio may have actually brought in more money than it would have with a theatrical release.

Guess who isn’t happy about this.

If you said theater owners, go buy yourself a coke because you win. Deadline reports that the National Association of Theatre Owners issued a statement which, to me, sounds like a mix of panic and pettiness, saying in part:

“Universal does not have reason to use unusual circumstances in an unprecedented environment as a springboard to bypass true theatrical releases,” said NATO president and CEO John Fithian. “Theaters provide a beloved immersive, shared experience that cannot be replicated – an experience that many of the VOD viewers of this film would have participated in had the world not been sequestered at home, desperate for something new to watch with their families. We are confident that when theaters reopen, studios will continue to benefit from the global theatrical box office, followed by traditional home release.”

Universal plans to experiment with video-on-demand releases concurrent with theatrical releases once theaters resume operation because of the success of Trolls World Tour.

AMC and other theater chains are claiming that they won’t carry films that don’t respect the theatrical release window, which doesn’t make sense because they just got finished saying how great the theater experience is and how people would clearly rather go to a theater than watch a movie at home if given a choice.

You know how there are very few drive-in theaters now even though there were around 4,000 in the US at one point, a number comparable to the number of theaters playing first-run movies in the US today. They closed due to a combination of Daylight Savings Time pushing start times back an hour and home video, in this case the wide adoption of the VCR, letting people stay home and watch movies, which they preferred.

Think about your local movie theater. Doesn’t it seem a little 1970s? Even if it was built more recently, they all just kind of seem a bit old-fashioned, don’t though? A bit nostalgic? A bit out-of-place in today’s world?

You can buy a new 50” brand-name 4K UHD TV for under $500 today. How is going to a movie theater where you can’t control the temperature, have to sit in an uncomfortable seat and probably eat overpriced snacks better than watching a movie at home? Comfy seats, eat whatever you want, have a beer and hey, you’re not bothering anyone by using your phone or iPad at home, something you should absolutely never do at a theater.

If I were a theater owner and I couldn’t pressure the studios into considering me necessary enough to give me the protection of the theatrical release window, I might start looking for something else to do with my property.

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