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Will online movie platforms overtake traditional theatres?

A new cinematic experience has been occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trolls World Tour has taken the world by storm after its release online. Photo courtesy of Universal Studio

Universal’s Trolls World Tour has been released on both traditional and digital platforms, after an investment of US$100 million, according to Người Lao Động (Labourers) newspaper,

After it was broadcast online via VOD (video-on-demand) for $19.99 for a 48-hour viewing time, Trolls World Tour ranked No 1 on Amazon, Comcast, Apple, Vudu, YouTube, DirecTV and FandangoNOW.

On FandangoNOW, the movie set a record with the highest number of pre-orders of all time, among other achievements.

After three weeks, Trolls World Tour gained $100 million via online platforms. Compared to other Trolls movies, the figure is not far from the $116 million earned from Trolls after its first three weeks at the North American box office in 2019, before grossing $153.7 million in the US and nearly $347 million worldwide.

Via the new broadcast system, the movie’s producers were able to take on a more proactive role in distribution, reduce costs and even have a chance to make more profit.

“As soon as traditional theatres reopen, we hope to continue being able to introduce Trolls World Tour in both online and offline versions,” Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal Corporation, told The Wall Street Journal.

Trolls World Tour is the first Hollywood movie that has not been entirely dependent on traditional distribution channels over the last 100 years.

Experts agree that this has set a precedent, but at the same time threatens the survival of traditional theatres, which have always required exclusivity.

Many film studios are beginning to invest more in their own digital platforms. For example, while Disney decided to release Artemis Fowl exclusively on Disney Plus from June 12, Warner Bros has scheduled Scoob! to be broadcast exclusively on HBO Max.

Meanwhile, the number of subscribers to online movie platforms such as Netflix has soared during the social distancing period.

Conflict with traditional channels

According to Reuters, the release of two movies, Lost in Russia and Enter the Fat Dragon, online has stirred China’s movie market. Traditional movie theatres feared that audiences would choose to stay at home and watch movies even after the pandemic.

Though online distribution has shown its potential, experts are concerned that it will create conflict with traditional movie platforms.

Online distribution of movies has also met the needs of elderly audiences who cannot visit the cinema as freely as younger people. It has also been convenient for locals in rural areas to enjoy certain movies at the same time as those shown in big cities.

That being said, the need to visit traditional theatres will remain as the experience offers a better cinematic experience as well a social interaction.

Audiences believe the two distribution channels will not cancel each other out, but create an opportunity for movie producers to earn more from both online and traditional platforms. VNS 

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