Universal Pictures International France is opening Trolls World Tour wide on 650 prints on October 14 to coincide with the country’s half-term school holidays.
France is one of the only territories in the world where the film will be seen in so many cinemas since the controversial decision by Universal Pictures’ parent group NBCUniversal in April to collapse the theatrical window in response to the pandemic which at that point had put much of the world in lockdown. Instead the film received a premium VoD day-and-date release in most territories worldwide in April.
However, day-and-date releases are not legally permitted in France under the country’s strict media chronology laws and rather than forego the theatrical release altogether, UPI France managing director Xavier Albert held the line to maintain this week’s release. It will be one of the only US studio family-focused titles to be released in France since Covid-19 hit the country in mid-March, following Disney’s cancellation of Mulan and Soul and Sony Pictures France’s delay of Connected, which was also originally slated for an October 14 release.
The original Trolls drew some 2.7m admissions when it released in the same period in France in 2016 for a gross of around $21m.
Albert is hesitant about making any box office forecasts this time around but he is hopeful the film will find an enthusiastic audience looking for family entertainment.
When we spoke in June as French cinemas reopened following the lockdown, you said you remained ”convinced of the box office potential” of Trolls World Tour. Given the complicated Covid-19 situation now in France is this still the case?
The franchise’s popularity remains very strong, especially at the heart of the main target group of families with children. We’ve seen since the reopening of the theatres in June, that there has been a real demand for family films in the theatres.
It is without a doubt the segment of the audience where there is currently the most potential. It’s worth remembering the only film to achieve a million admissions since the reopening, apart from Tenet, is the family comedy Les Blagues de Toto, for which nobody expected such a level of entries.
Given the resurgence in the number of cases of the virus in France, it must have been a stressful few weeks.
Of course, we’re anxious even if in reality there are regional differences in the evolution of the pandemic. But across the territory, cinema theatres have implemented a very strict hygiene protocol, involving masks, social distancing and they have not been identified as a source of infections. Also, the theatres have not been asked to close [even] in areas placed under ‘maximum alert’. French spectators don’t seem to be particularly scared about going to the cinema if you look at the box office figures which remain relatively stable and vary only with respect to the offering of films and the weather.
How many prints will the film come out on?
We’re planning close to 650 prints, which is a major release. We’re also releasing it 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 colours of the film.
Have you done a big marketing campaign?
Yes. We believe in the potential of the film in spite of the complicated health situation. We’re working with a mix of media to the tune of several million euros net. Notably, we’ve put in place a large poster campaign on more than 6,000 sites nationally. Also, for the first time, we’ve done a significant TV campaign [following changes to TV advertising laws for features film which came into effect in August] targetting TF1, M6 and [children’s channel] Gulli with some 15 million estimated contacts.
We also teased the release of the film in an exhibition in Paris called ”25 Years of Dreamworks Animation”, created by our partners Art Ludique in collaboration with Dreamworks. We also did a lot of work on more traditional media and the social networks with the two of the French voices in the film, Matt Pokora and Vitaa, who were very enthusiastic about working on the film.
Will you be taking your own children to see the film in the cinema?
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.
I recently took my daughter to see a fantastic French family film, Poly by Nicolas Vanier. I could see that the theatre had put an efficient hygiene system in place which was reassuring.
Have you continued with the launch of the merchandising to accompany the film?
Our consumer products division has done an amazing job to accompany the release so that we have a major presence in retailers with a large line of products. It’s another reason why we’ve stood by this release because we know that with regards to licensed products, the franchise works really well.
Will the absence of other US studio family-focused titles help Trolls World Tour at the box office?
It is potentially an opportunity but it’s also a risk that we’re carrying alone. I’m more generally on the side of those who think that the more strong films there are in cinemas, the more spectators will go to the cinema, and the better the market will be, which would be of benefit for everyone in the end. The lack of competition in the family part of the market makes us think we could have a longer career
Have you been in regular contact with the theatres over this release? Are they appreciative of the UPI France’s decision to maintain the theatrical release of Trolls?
We have already held four preview events for the film since August to help the theatres offer families an exciting film. This initiative has proved successful generating 100,000 admissions for the film so far, which is encouraging for the next step.
What are you releasing next?
We will continue in November with very promising comedy-horror Freaky. After the success of Happy Death Day, we believe a lot in this genre film, which we’ve moved up to November 11. We think it’s exactly what the youth target group of teenagers and young adults are waiting to see in a cinema as part of a collective experience which we will scare them and make them laugh at the same time.
We’ll be following this with two films in December: On the 2nd it will be the turn of another major Dreamworks Animation production, The Croods: A New Age, which will be one of the events of Christmas, and the 9th, Let Him Go, an urban western starring Kevin Costner and Diane Lane.
Do you feel a sense of pride that you continued with the theatrical release of Trolls World Tour against the odds?
We’re immensely happy to have been able to work on this new film by Dreamworks Animation because we love this studio and animation in general. Trolls World Tour is a very rich film in terms of its musical universe, which is fun to work on and is very well done. We sincerely hope the release will live up to our expectations. It’s an important test for us all.