Is the future of family viewing on demand?
We're not the first ones to observe what could be the far reaching consequences of the current pandemic on the movie industry. And we won't be the last. Cinemas have been in trouble for while now anyway and with them being shut for business for such a prolonged period, the future is looking grim. Even with the social distancing measures that will likely be introduced as they start to open again, people may not feel safe enough to go the cinema. Having watched movies from the comfort of their own couches for weeks to months, they also might not be bothered. This could especially be the case for family viewing.
The success of family animated feature 'Trolls World Tour' in this regard cannot be emphasised enough. The sequel to 2016's movie 'Trolls' (based on a toy franchise but heck, it was a decent family offering) made $100 million in the first three weeks of domestic "premium VOD." Sure it wasn't as good as its predecessor, but parents and kids don't really care about that stuff. It was something to watch, it was colourful, had some laughs, great music and portrayed a magical, fantastical world right when we need some escapism.
The move made Universal Studios come to a head with AMC Theatres as well as Cineworld. After the success of 'Trolls 2', NBCUniversal Jeff Shell said they planned to release more movies on demand in the future, and to even release movies on demand at the same time as their cinematic release. That news is obviously terrible for movie theatre chains. Thus Adam Aron, AMC Theaters CEO, said it would stop screening films from Universal if they followed through with these plans. Which would mean they'd miss out on some major movies from the studio including 'Fast & Furious 9', 'Minions: The Rise of Gru' and 'Jurassic World: Dominion'.
Now obviously fans of the 'FF' franchise and 'Jurassic' series are going to want to see those movies on a big screen. They're made for it. But the 'Minions' sequel provides an interesting case study too being the most family oriented of the three biggies. The first 'Minions' is the fifth highest grossing animated movie of all time (behind, in case you're wondering, 'The Lion King' (2019), followed by 'Frozen II', 'Frozen' and 'Incredibles 2') and its follow-up was expected to follow suit. Moreover, three of those top five movies were released last year. So clearly, animated and family-oriented movies make big bank.
Current times requires a shift away from the cinema and that's why you've major studios like Warner Bros. releasing 'Scoob!' (the latest Scooby Doo movie, another animated effort) on demand. Meanwhile 'Artemis Fowl' is skipping cinemas and going straight to Disney+. Netflix are also stepping up their game when it comes to content for families, adding various family classics to their library as well as new animated features like 'The Willoughbys'.
Family viewing from the home is quick making a comeback and just as more mature fans are enjoying the home comforts of Netflix and other on demand services, the same can likely be said for kids and their parents. No more do they have to worry about their children disturbing other patrons, or keeping them fed as they grab a snack from the kitchen mid-movie (food at home is way healthier than what's at the cinemas anyway). As much as the cinema is an opportunity to get out of the house and make a day trip, is it better to leave screen time - TV and movies - for home?
According to current cinema release schedules, there are still plenty of family movies to come later this year and in 2021. 'The Secret Garden' and 'The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run' are set to hit screens in August (which is when Irish cinemas reopen) while Pixar movie 'Soul' will arrive in November. Still, the majority of titles, including 'Peter Rabbit 2', 'Sing 2', 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife', 'Jungle Cruise' and 'Raya and the Last Dragon', have all been delayed to next year. It's hard to feel optimistic for the box office at a time like this and with so little to attract in families, things look even more bleak. But good news for on demand, right?