Universal’s move to quicker premium video on demand is reportedly paying off

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Universal’s flexible approach to post-theatrical launches  seems to be paying off and represents a victory for studio chair, Donna Langley. 

Universal seem to be having a pretty good 2023, especially when you line the studio up against some of its rivals such as Disney, who seems to be struggling to regain its pre-pandemic momentum. Universal’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the highest-grossing film of the year so far and is still in cinemas right now, continuing to add to its already very impressive haul of $1.3bn.

The good news for Universal doesn’t end there though. The studio’s strategy, developed throughout the pandemic and beyond, has been to lean into premium video on demand (PVOD) releases and it certainly seems to be paying off. Universal has created a system where it has flexibility to release titles onto PVOD very quickly, as soon as 17 days after a cinema release in fact depending on a film’s box office performance.

It seems to be paying off too, with PVOD income seemingly not having a negative effect on cinema grosses. In the case of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, the film arrived on PVOD in the US 41 days after its cinema release and has gone on to make another $30m at the box office whilst also picking up a hefty $75m on PVOD. Those totals will continue to rise before the film eventually makes its way onto Universal’s Peacock streaming platform.

It’s a clear success story and sits in stark contrast to the post-pandemic problems that Disney is facing, with the Mouse House having sent (or even premiered) much of its slate straight to Disney+ without a PVOD release.

It means that Disney (currently in the midst of a major cost-cutting process) is missing out on a major slice of revenue that it could probably do with right now as it cuts its workforce and pulls movies and shows from its streaming platform to chop down costs. Some are speculating that sending films straight to streaming is devaluing them too, a discussion that is ongoing regarding Pixar’s difficulties to make  a box office impact since Disney began putting them straight onto its streaming platform during the pandemic.

Universal’s approach seems to be working though and along with the highest-grossing film of this year in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Universal can also claim the largest US box office share of any studio from last year. Add to that a mighty $1bn haul from PVOD since the pandemic and it’s not surprising that Universal chair Donna Langley is continuing to win admirers for the way she has navigated the studio successfully  through  a tricky few years.

The New York Times

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