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While Illumination’s Sing 2 did solid business at the year-end holiday box office — including becoming the first animated film of the pandemic era to cross $100 million domestically — families still haven’t returned to the multiplex in full force. And what momentum there has been is now endangered by the highly infectious omicron variant.
The struggling family marketplace prompted Universal to make Sing 2 available on premium video on-demand on Jan. 7, just 17 days after it opened on the big screen. And there was a twist: the studio upped its 48-hour rental PVOD price from $19.99 to $24.99. Consumers didn’t seem to mind. Sources close to the company say the film marked Universal’s second-biggest opening weekend on PVOD behind Trolls World Tour. Also on Jan. 7, Disney announced that Pixar’s early March event film Turning Red will bypass theaters in the U.S. and debut exclusively on Disney+.
Universal isn’t the first to charge $24.99 for a PVOD rental. Warner Bros. did the same with Godzilla vs. Kong, Dune and The Suicide Squad, all of which opened day and date in cinemas and on HBO Max. And Disney has charged $29.99 for films debuting simultaneously on the big screen and Disney Premier Access, including Jungle Cruise (Turning Red won’t carry an extra charge). Disney+ customers, however, have access to the film for a full month.
As they move to hybrid theatrical-home releases amid the ongoing pandemic, Hollywood conglomerates generally don’t release PVOD or streaming viewership numbers. NBCUniversal chief Jeff Shell broke from this tradition in spring of 2021 when revealing that Trolls World Tour earned more than $100 million by the end of its third week on PVOD. (Trolls didn’t play in theaters domestically.)
Sing 2, sporting an A+ CinemaScore and top audience exits, is certainly no slouch at the box office, grossing $108.7 million domestically to date since its Dec. 22 release and $190.8 million globally. Ditto for Walt Disney Animation’s Thanksgiving event pic Encanto, which has earned a solid $92.4 million domestically after receiving an A CinemaScore and $123.1 million overseas for a global total of $215.5 million.
While that’s a strong showing in the current climate, it’s still far less than Illumination/Universal or Disney could count on before the pandemic. In 2017, Pixar and Disney’s Coco opened over Thanksgiving on its way to earning $192 million domestically and nearly $600 million worldwide.
In 2016, Sing — an original property like Coco — topped out at $270.4 million at the domestic box office and $363.8 million overseas for a global total of $634.2 million. Sing 2 is looking at a fraction of that, including maybe $135 million domestically. PVOD can help make up for the difference. And putting the title in the home after only 17 days meant that the studio could use its theatrical marketing campaign to also reach PVOD customers.
Sing 2 still did steady business for theater owners despite the PVOD offering. It placed No. 2 behind Spider-Man: No Way Home with $12 million in its third weekend.
Theater owners in the U.S. won’t be given a chance to carry Pixar’s Turning Red since Disney is going straight to Disney+ at no extra charge for the streamer’s subscribers. It’s the third straight Pixar movie to be sent to Disney+ after Soul and Luca.
“From what I’ve read having an exclusive Disney+ release for a Pixar film drives good sub numbers,” says Wall Street analyst Eric Handler. “It’s a balancing act right now between growing Disney+ subs and maximizing revenue for a movie across all windows. Omicron didn’t help Sing 2, which likely played in Universal’s decision.”
After COVID-19 led to widespread theater closures, Universal was the first Hollywood studio to strike landmark deals with cinema operators shortening the theatrical window to as little as 17 days. If a film opens to $50 million or more, the PVOD window can’t commence until 31 days.
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