The Keanu Reeves-starring The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run and Bill & Ted Face the Music, both currently scheduled for theatrical releases in August, could instead go directly to digital platforms, according to a veteran industry analyst. As most movie theaters around the globe remain shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic, the third SpongeBob feature film and the long-awaited third entry in the Bill & Ted franchise would follow the animated Trolls World Tour and the just-released Scoob! as the latest high-profile titles to skip theaters for release on premium video on demand, each priced at $19.99 for a 48-hour rental.
"We just don't know at this point what the world will look like in June and July, but what we do know is if studios are planning to release these films in theaters, they'd have to begin advertising them right now," Jeff Bock, senior analyst at entertainment research firm Exhibitor Relations, told CNN Business. "That's more money that they might be risking. That's why some of these films make a lot of sense going straight to digital."
After a series of postponed dates, Paramount Pictures set Sponge on the Run for May 22 before pushing the Nickelodeon sequel to its current date of August 7, while MGM-owned Orion Pictures set Face the Music for August 21. Warner Bros. has superhero tentpole Wonder Woman 1984 scheduled for August 14, but the DC Comics movie will be pushed to December if Warner Bros. is unable to comfortably open the Christopher Nolan-directed Tenet on July 17.
"With the uncertainty that lies ahead, studios are no doubt running alternative scenarios, crunching numbers and ultimately weighing the possibility of more films going to on-demand," Bock said. "The pandemic will likely only streamline which films fit into that pipeline more and more going forward."
The Trolls World Tour digital rental earned an estimated $100 million in its first three weeks, according to an April 28 report from CNBC, with 80% of that going directly to Universal. Despite this rock-and-roll performance, The Hollywood Reporter on May 6 cited industry veterans who reported the Trolls sequel may "never make a dime." This was contested by a Universal source, who said the studio believes it can earn at least $40 million in profit from all revenue sources.
Other summer releases, including Tenet and Disney's live-action Mulan, both set for release in July, have little chance of forgoing theatrical releases entirely. In April, Disney pulled Artemis Fowl from its May 29 theatrical release and announced plans to make the movie available to Disney+ subscribers starting June 12.0comments
Other releases currently planned to open theatrically in August include Disney's The One and Only Ivan (August 14), Lionsgate horror Antebellum (August 21), and Fox-Disney's long-delayed The New Mutants (August 28).
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