In an unprecedented environment caused by the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), every person around the world is being called upon to find a new sense of normal during a situation that is anything but. And in a world where life has ground to a resounding halt, finding a place of comfort and joy has grown a bit harder.
For businesses, and in particular, the entertainment industry, the impact of COVID-19 is playing out on the frontpage of newspapers and in every social feed, as the knock-on effect caused by the seemingly global mandate to shelter in place finds studios exploring new avenues. Hollywood powerhouse Universal is just one such example. For the movie companies, which are uniquely dependent on group activities such as going to theaters as a significant driver for IP engagement, the isolation required of our new normal has proved to be a unique challenge, but not one that is insurmountable. With “Trolls World Tour” originally slated to release in only
movie theaters on April 10 (per the norm), smack in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, Universal Pictures quickly opted to take a new tact – release simultaneous to video-on-demand platforms, a first for a major film studio.
“We’re living in an unprecedented global crisis right now, and the public is longing for a sense of normalcy and stability,” says Vince Klaseus, president, Universal Brand Development. “Movies have always offered audiences that sense of wonder and escape, so rather than delaying the film’s release for months, we wanted to provide an option for people to enjoy ‘Trolls World Tour’ in their homes, together as families, in a way that was both accessible and affordable. It may also be somewhat serendipitous that our ‘Trolls’ brand, which stands for optimism and diversity, comes at a time when the world needs it the most.”
The move is smart on multiple levels, but none more so than the obvious – families are home and have plenty of time at their disposal. The film will be available in select territories for a 48-hour rental on a wide range of platforms including SKY, Google Play, Xfinity, YouTube, iTunes and Amazon Prime, with more platforms continuing to come on board. Average cost per rental is recommended at $19.99. And for those territories where the movie can open to the public, it will. Release dates will vary by region, stretching out as far as fall.
For a heavily leveraged licensed IP, this path to release is a breath of fresh air for both licensor and licensee. Product and promotions (backed by Universal’s Symphony initiative, which pulls on all levers the studio has to offer) have long been in place as “Trolls World Tour” has geared up for its spring premiere. Orders have been in place, manufacturing long completed and orders fulfilled.
“Our theatrical marketing remains in place with continued media campaigns, integrations and of course a major Symphony initiative from the broader Comcast/NBCUniversal corporation,” says Klaseus. “We also have consumer marketing campaigns anchored by a number of our consumer products partners in conjunction with strong retail marketing initiatives from our key accounts worldwide.”