After ‘Trolls’, ‘King of Staten Island’ tests adult appetite for digital films

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The R-rated film, which follows Davidson’s life as a twenty-something who lost his firefighter father at a young age, was set to be the first major test of the star’s ability to join other cast members who managed to cross for the cinema. It is also the last attempt by the film’s studio, Universal Pictures, to extract gold at the box office of Apatow, one of the most popular directors and producers of the comedy.

The coronavirus pandemic changed this calculation by redirecting film from theaters to video-on-demand. “The King of Staten Island” thus becomes the last test of this platform, and the extent to which its demographic viability goes beyond the appeal to children of films like “Trolls”.

“e thinks what’s going on here is that studios decide which movies will go digital on a case-by-case basis,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore (Scor), told CNN Business. “Comedy hasn’t really been a strong genre at the box office lately, so if ‘Staten Island’ is a digital success maybe that sends a signal to studios that this genre is better suited for the small screen in the future.”

He may also point out that digital live “is no longer just for family animated films,” Dergarabedian added. Again, digital and streaming services have “always been a great home for comedy,” so it’s “really hard to say what impact it might have.”

Will Pete Davidson be as popular as the Trolls?

Making its debut during home shelter orders in April, “Trolls” was a great success for Universal, to the point that it irritated theater owners like Amc (Amc) when the studio sang that the animated sequel amassed five million rentals – nearly $100 million in revenue – within weeks of its availability.

Other family movies such as Warner Bros.’s “Scoob!” which, like CNN is a unit of WarnerMedia, and Disney’s “Artemis Fowl,” which debuted on Disney on Friday, also bypassed theaters.

Most of the films that skipped a theatrical release were children’s rates and smaller, more character-oriented films. Expected blockbusters, including Disney’s “Mulan,” Marvel’s “Black Widow” and Universal’s “F9,” postponed their releases rather than skip theaters completely.

This makes “Staten Island” one of the most notable adult, live action movies to hit digitally yet. Still, the comedy will have a good amount of company this month, not all aimed at a family crowd.

Spike Lee’s latest film, “Da 5 Bloods,” premiered Friday Netflix (NFLX), while “Irresistible,” a political satire starring Steve Carell and directed by Jon Stewart, lands on June 26.

Other recent releases include the musical drama “The High Note” and “Shirley,” starring Elisabeth Moss. Other films that have moved to digital or streaming in the coming weeks include “The Outpost,” director Rod Lurie’s adaptation of the book by CNN’s Jake Tapper; and “Hamilton,” a film version of the hit Broadway musical with the original cast, which will air on Disney.

A successful digital release of “Staten Island” and films like it would show that many genres can be successful without a theatrical release. This could further encourage studios to change how long films stay in theaters – a strategy theatre owners have long resisted.

“The more data studios have on the types of movies that will run on digital platforms will certainly have a cause and effect on release strategies in the future,” Jeff Bock, a senior analyst at entertainment research firm Exhibitor Relations, told CNN Business.

Digital blockbuster are hard to judge

However, it is difficult to assess the performance of digitally broadcast films since studios do not publish much information about them. It also takes away a promotional opportunity – the familiar advertising pitch to “go see Movie No. 1!”

“The box office figures serve as much for a marketing objective as for a measure of success,” dergarabedian said. “Without it, it takes away a giant puzzle piece that lets the industry know what works and lets the audience know if a movie is worth their time, or more importantly, their money.”

Despite Hollywood’s current digital revolution, studio executives are reiterating their commitment to theatrical distribution, a model that still gives them the biggest blow for their dollars. Movie theaters are tentatively beginning to reopen, with California approving a plan that would allow them to operate with limited capacity. AMC, the world’s largest cinema owner, said this week that all its theaters around the world will open again in July.

Despite this, it is clear that studios want more latitude on how they publish their films in the future, and this summer’s digital data will inform those decisions. This has implications for their functioning throughout the pandemic and beyond.

“For many potential consumers, the pandemic will not stop until there is a widely available vaccine,” Bock said. “And digital is a viable option to maintain this consumer base and increase studio results.”

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