With the recent coronavirus pandemic, movie theaters have been forced to shut their doors and hundreds of films, including dozens of high profile movies slated for summer release, have been pushed to the fall. This condensed film release cycle intensifies the weekly box office competition, making studios exceedingly desperate to earn every consumer dollar. The result is a high risk, low profit scenario for upcoming movies, such as what happened with Universal Pictures and their recent DreamWorks animated movie Trolls: World Tour.
With very few release spots to fill and most of the marketing already paid for, Trolls: World Tour was in a tough situation. This forced Universal to release the film straight to VOD, a trend that has become common amidst this crisis. This decision may turn out to be fruitful, as Trolls: World Tour was #1 amongst digital downloads and purchases on the iTunes store, posting numbers ten times higher than their summer tentpole: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. With families forced to remain inside, Universal could make a nice profit out of a bad situation, but it also brings into question the future of the film industry.
In the coming months, we will likely see a fundamental restructuring of an industry that has served as a staple of American life. If these sort of VOD releases prove to be financially profitable, many studios may elect to send their movies straight to people’s living rooms. But with large theater channels like AMC already considering bankruptcy, movie theaters could become a thing of the past. We’ve already seen yearly box office numbers declining for studios worldwide with each passing year, and the coronavirus pandemic could be the final nail in the coffin.
While we might see certain movies stay with the theatrical experience- mainly action and horror movies- it’s no question that there is a future where most people won’t want to see movies in their local theater. Instead they would elect to watch from the comfort of their home, with theaters being more of a novelty than a staple of life.