A few days ago, France’s cinemas reacted with fury to Disney’s decision to move Soul to Disney+, arguing that they were open for business. Here’s a consolation: Universal is giving Dreamworks’ Trolls World Tour a wide theatrical release in the country tomorrow, bucking its own strategy for the film elsewhere.
In April, Universal strayed into the theaters’ firing line when it shifted Trolls World Tour to a theatrical-VOD day-and-date release, becoming the first studio to mess with the traditional theatrical window in the pandemic. It adopted this strategy in most markets, but not France, where the theatrical window is strongly protected in law. Instead, Universal Pictures International (UPI) France bided its time, waiting for the opportune moment to put the family flick in cinemas.
That moment has come. The film is opening on 650 prints in the country (where schools are currently on vacation) on the back of a multi-million-euro marketing campaign. This is despite a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, about which President Emmanuel Macron will speak to the nation tomorrow. Cinemas will relish the release — the only Hollywood tentpole to come out in France since March apart from Tenet.
Speaking to Screen Daily, Xavier Albert, UPI France’s managing director, pointed to the relative success of family films at the French box office since it reopened in June. “The franchise’s popularity remains very strong,” he adds, “especially at the heart of the main target group of families with children.” The first Trolls drew around 2.7 million admissions in France in 2016, grossing around USD$21 million.
Asked whether he would take his own children to see Trolls World Tour, Albert said, “Yes, of course, because as I said before the hygiene protocol in French cinemas is very strict and respected by the great majority of spectators. I don’t see the cinema theatre as any riskier than school where my children are right now, quite the contrary.”
He also made an interesting comment on the creative aspect of choosing a theatrical release: “We’re also releasing [the film] on several special formats such as that of Dolby Cinema or ICE (Immersive Cinema Experience) in the CGR cinema circuit, giving a totally immersive cinema experience that is appropriate for the musical rhythm and colors of the film.”
Notwithstanding the resurgence of the virus, France’s cinemas have done relatively good business since reopening. The National Cinema Centre estimates that there were 5.5 million cinema admissions in the country in September, amounting to a gross of around USD$43 million. That represents a year-on-year drop of just over 50%. Another animated feature, Rémi Chayé’s Calamity, A Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary, will hit theaters alongside Trolls World Tour tomorrow.