Streaming options are becoming more and more commonplace for consumers when it comes to movies and television. With theaters shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, studios had to make big decisions with some of the movies they had planned to release in 2020. While some are stubbornly still releasing in theaters, others have decided to explore other options.
One of those streaming options is premium video-on-demand (PVOD). Some studios have decided to release their films through digital rental services at a higher-than-normal price range. Trolls World Tour was the first major 2020 release to try this and it assuredly paid off. Others would follow suit with some of their releases. One of those would end up being MGM and its subsidiary studio, Orion.
The company decided to release Bill & Ted Face the Music in both a limited theatrical run – just over 1,000 screens – and as a streaming PVOD option at $19.99. The theatrical run of Bill & Ted Face the Music has been expectedly disappointing, racking in only about $3 million. However, the PVOD sales for the film are ten times that, clocking in at around $32 million. Because of the PVOD sales, Bill & Ted Face the Music is going to end up being a profitable venture.
This is an enormous win for both MGM/Orion and consumers. It shows that more niche movies like Bill & Ted Face the Music – which was never going to set the box office on fire – can be successful on PVOD/streaming if marketed properly. Consumers are willing to pay the larger rental price for all the conveniences of home viewing. And with smaller movies like Bill & Ted Face the Music, it might actually mean they get more viewers than they would at the movie theater.
Movie theater exhibition companies have known they were going to have to seriously compete with streaming options, but 2020 jumpstarted that entire showdown and has given a big advantage to streaming platforms. The one advantage movie theaters have once they return to full operation is big event releases. But, even Disney decided to pull one of their event films – Mulan – and put it on Disney+ with a Premium Access fee that allowed subscribers to watch the movie early (Mulan will be available to all Disney+ subscribers this December).
The success of Bill & Ted Face the Music on PVOD should spell an exciting future for other new releases on streaming platforms. Audiences are now primed for PVOD to be a regular part of the movie experience. There is no way you can put that genie back in the bottle. Now that it is a viable option for consumers, they are going to expect it to be regularly available for many releases. The question remains: would audiences be willing to pay PVOD prices for huge event films like Wonder Woman 1984?
MGM/Orion was definitely saved thanks to the PVOD/streaming release of Bill & Ted Face the Music, but MGM still has the James Bond film No Time to Die slated for theatrical release in November. And with Disney pulling Black Widow off the 2020 release calendar, only MGM and Warner Bros. are committed to releasing big tentpole films in 2020. It’s a shame they feel this way since audiences do not seem enthusiastic about going back to the theater. Hopefully, they will learn a lesson from MGM/Orion’s release of Bill & Ted Face the Music and offer a PVOD option as well as a theatrical one.