European Cinema Group Downplays 'Trolls' Sequel On-Demand Revenue

Trolls World Tour - Publicity Still 7- H 2019
Dreamworks Animation

The strong online performance of Universal's animated film was a one-off, says Europe's UNIC and shouldn't be used as an argument to "redesign the cinema-release model."

Europe's cinema owners have joined in the Trolls World Tour bashing.

The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), which represents European cinema trade associations and operators, said Wednesday that VOD figures for Universal's new release were, essentially, a one-off.

"The performance of Trolls Word Tour should be viewed — and only viewed — in the context of the exceptional circumstances surrounding its release and the unprecedented times we are living through," the UNIC said in a statement. "When a third of the global population is currently on some form of a coronavirus lockdown and only 4 percent of cinema screens around the world are open, it is hardly surprising that many have turned to VOD and similar other services."

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell this week hailed the VOD results of Trolls World Tour — the animated title racked up an estimated $100 million in on-demand rentals in its first three weeks of play in North America. The VOD bow was on par with the $116 million domestic box office gross of the original Trolls movie in its first three weeks in 2016. Trolls eventually earned $153.7 million theatrically in the U.S. and Canada, not adjusted for inflation.

On Tuesday, the National Association of Theatre Owners however, said Trolls World Tour's online success was not a sign of a "new normal" for Hollywood and that premium VOD could not replace the theatrical experience. AMC Theatres went one step further: The world's largest cinema chain threatened to boycott Universal releases in the future following Shell's comments.

The more diplomatic UNIC didn't go that far, but the group downplayed the broader significance of Universal's VOD success.

"The results for this title undoubtedly owe a great deal to its marketing as — what was then planned to be — a theatrical release. The sequel was also one of the very few children's films to hit the market at this time, making it — even at a premium price — appealing to many families confined indoors," the group said. "This combination of unusual circumstances should not be used as a reference to redesign a longstanding and proven release business model, which remains crucial in ensuring the ongoing availability of films to the benefit of audiences."

The UNIC warned "those who will depend on the success of the film industry" against "hastily altering key practices for short-term gains." Instead, the group said, every section of the film industry should work together to "create the best conditions for the whole sector to recover as soon as possible."