Like every major Hollywood studio, Universal was forced to postpone many of its upcoming summer blockbusters when multiplex chains around the country closed their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That means we won’t be seeing films like Candyman, F9 and Minions: The Rise of Gru until later this year or even 2021. But one high-profile Universal film did keep its release date: Trolls World Tour, the sequel to the 2016 animated hit. Rather than delay the movie’s 10 April premiere, the studio made it available for rental on digital services — including Amazon, iTunes — for a 48-hour rental window priced at £15.99... much to the consternation of cinema owners.
Despite the commercial risk, it looks like Universal has plenty to sing about now. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio estimates that Trolls World Tour has become the highest-grossing digital title in movie history, scoring the biggest opening day and weekend grosses for an on-demand release. (The film did play on the big screen in the few cinemas across America that are still open, including drive-ins.)
While Universal didn’t release specific financial numbers, it did reveal to Deadline that Trolls World Tour did ten times of the business of its past record-holder, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Over the weekend, the film topped the charts on Amazon, iTunes, FandangoNow and Redbox On Demand.
Reviews of Trolls World Tour — which reunites Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake as pop musically-inclined trolls, Poppy and Branch — were mostly positive, which isn’t always the case for animated sequels.
The filmmakers also apparently made the right decision to go heavy on the music in this installment, devising a story that sends the heroes on an adventure to visit six different Troll realms, each one with its own unique sound. That allowed them to fill the supporting cast with popular actors and singers like Rachel Bloom, Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, Anderson Paak and the K-pop band Red Velvet. Fans of those artists threw up their hands on Twitter.
@AndersonPaak excuse me sir. You did your thing on Trolls World Tour and the message for my kids is especially what we needed during this pandemic. Thank you! You've got a new friend and follow, wife beat me to the punch.— Charles Houston (@MrCharlieHTown) April 13, 2020
George Clinton and Mary J. Blige having Anderson Paak as their son is Iconic. #trollsworldtour— Richard Roe (@MrRoeLHS) April 11, 2020
So proud of my girls! I rly love the movie! The songs gave me goosebumps it's so great 😍❤️❤️❤️ I'm rly happy & grateful #RedVelvet were chosen to represent the kpop music hoping for more opportunity like this in the future KPOP GANG THE BEST! #TrollsWorldTour #TROLLSxREDVELVET pic.twitter.com/b4mwCDXXKl— ℓҽℓҽ ✰ WINWINWINWIN Boomerang (@justwoojins99) April 13, 2020
While Trolls World Tour may be a digital hit, studios — including Universal — aren’t rushing to premiere other new titles on demand. Disney, for example, has announced that one of its summer titles, Artemis Fowl, will go straight to Disney+, but high-profile films like Mulan, Black Widow and Jungle Cruise are being held for when cinemas re-open.
Other studios have opted to simply sell off select titles to streaming services: Netflix picked up the Kumail Nanjiani/Issa Rae comedy, The Lovebirds, from Paramount, while Amazon Prime recently purchased STX’s My Spy starring Dave Bautista, which had a brief theatrical run in the UK.
Still, Trolls World Tour could be the first step towards a future where the next must-see movie opens on a TV, rather than a cinema, near you.
Trolls World Tour is currently available to rent on digital streaming services.