Notably, the upcoming installment in the animated family-friendly franchise is deviating from the release pattern of its predecessor, which unexpectedly shook up the film exhibition industry last year. Universal planned to release “Trolls World Tour” in March 2020, right before COVID-19 forced movie theaters around the globe to close. Rather than delaying the film until cinemas were able to reopen, the studio decided to put it on digital rental service on the same day as its theatrical debut. However, nearly every multiplex (sans select drive-in locations) were closed, so the only option for audiences was to watch “Trolls World Tour” at home. Needless to say, cinema operators weren’t thrilled.
It wasn’t until Universal’s CEO Jeff Shell later touted the lucrative on-demand revenues, suggesting the company would go forth with simultaneous releases in post-pandemic times. In response, AMC and Cinemark, two of the biggest movie theater chains, vowed to boycott Universal’s movies. Since then, Universal and the major cinema circuits have hammered out an agreement to shorten the theatrical window and bring movies more quickly to the home.
With its entire film slate, Universal is able to put new movies on digital platforms in as little as 17 days. However, titles that generate at least $50 million in opening weekend ticket sales will have to play exclusively in theaters for 31 days, or five full weekends. Universal’s theatrical window is considerably shorter than its rivals, most of which plan to keep movies in theaters for 45 days before moving to online rentals.
“Trolls World Tour” grossed $47 million at the international box office (during COVID-19) and another $100 million on streaming platforms in its first few weekends. Though Universal likely won’t report the final number of digital transactions, it was evidently more than enough to warrant another star turn for the plastic, furry dolls. The first film, 2016’s “Trolls,” generated $350 million at the global box office and landed an Oscar nomination for Justin Timberlake’s bop “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”
For families with young kids who can’t wait until 2023 to watch the further adventures of Poppy and Branch, NBC is premiering “Trolls Holiday in Harmony,” an all-new special featuring the voices of Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake. It will air on Friday, Nov. 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. In the holiday-themed episode, Queen Poppy is planning the inaugural Trolls Kingdom Secret Holiday Gift Swap. But things take an unexpected turn when she and Branch draw each other’s name.
“Trolls” has become an important property for Universal because beyond the film franchise, it benefits from all the ancillary goodies — video games, lunch boxes, toys, sleeping bags and touring concerts — that lend itself to a kids film.