Vudu has announced that the top-selling (in terms of total revenue) title of the previous weekend was not Top Gun: Maverick but Beast. The ‘Idris Elba versus a lion’ thriller earned $30 million domestic from $11.5 million domestic debut and $51 million worldwide thus far on a $36 million budget. That’s not a hit in conventional ‘at least 2.5x the budget’ standards for theatrical distribution. However, as we’re currently seeing, the revenue being provided by PVOD, EST, DVD and streaming viewership may have created a new ecosystem. Even a film like Robert Eggers’ The Northman can break into the black despite earning $69.5 million worldwide on a $70 million budget ($35 million from Focus) thanks to PVOD and related post-theatrical revenue streams. We may see a post-Covid theatrical environment where studios are more, not less, motivated to produce and release a wider variety of films into theaters.
Studios still haven’t begun releasing actual numbers in terms of PVOD revenue. I don’t know how much money Michael Bay’s Ambulance earned on PVOD or how much ‘value’ it brought to Peacock. The (damn good) action drama, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Eiza Gonzalez and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, earned $51 million on a $40 million budget. Universal has remained in the Michael Bay business, bringing Platinum Dunes into the fold. The film was enough of a success in post-theatrical to justify more of its ilk. We know films that play in theaters perform better on VOD and (non-Netflix) streaming, thanks to marketing campaigns, increased awareness and related ‘prestige’ tied to a multiplex run than just-streaming titles. If the PVOD stream is as lucrative as it appears, with little cannibalization of theatrical, then it behooves the studios to make more, not less, low-to-mid-budget theatrical films of all shapes, sizes and genres.
I don’t want to declare that Comcast’s
I have periodically discussed, as a best-case scenario for post-Covid theatrical, a future where more films of more sizes get theatrical releases as advertising for VOD or streaming. Think Warner Bros.’ early 2018 release of Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase weeks before its VOD release. We may see that come to fruition in Fathom Events showings of Clerks III or limited theatrical releases for Paramount