Nielsen’s: ‘Cruella’ Tops ‘He’s All That’ And ‘Vacation Friends’
In the Nielsen ratings for the week of August 23 to August 29, the top SVOD movie was, by a decent margin, Walt Disney’s Cruella. The Emma Stone-starring 101 Dalmatians prequel/reboot opened theatrically over Memorial Day weekend 2021 where it earned $27.5 million over the Fri-Mon frame. During that same time, it nabbed around 280 million minutes viewed so sayeth Nielsen, compared to 355 million minutes for Raya and the Last Dragon when it premiered in theaters and Premier Access in early March. Raya skyrocketed on the service when it became “free” on Disney+, nabbing 1.078 billion minutes viewed. And now, as Cruella becomes “free” to Disney+, the live-action fashion crime caper earned 815 million minutes. While folks will pay $30 to watch a big Disney movie on Disney+, they are far more willing to just wait until it’s free.
If that seems like an obvious conclusion, well, maybe it is. But it’s worth noting as studios react to the streaming war and Covid concerns with variations on shattered theatrical windows. This is yet more evidence to the idea that folks who won’t see a movie in theaters (either due to Covid or even before Covid) are the same consumers willing to wait 75-100 days for it to be available to rent (for around $5) or wait even longer until it’s “free’” on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. If you get consumers used to paying “nothing” to see a first-run theatrical feature if they just wait as long as they used to wait between theaters and DVD, then they’ll pay even less than the $10 movie ticket, $20 DVD purchase or $5 VOD rental to watch that film from home.
However, Cruella was a solid theatrical hit. The well-reviewed and well-liked “live-action fairy tale adaptation” (or whatever we want to call these films) legged out to $86.1 million, a stunning (especially for Memorial Day openers) 3.25 times its $26.5 million Fri-Mon debut gross. The $100 million-budgeted film earned $225 million worldwide, pretty decent considering the circumstances and good enough in a “will make money in the long run” fashion. That doesn’t mean I think a sequel (presuming conventional theatrical intentions) is a slam dunk, but it might perform about as well as Cruella might have in non-Covid times (especially overseas). So that the film is a popular Disney+ freebie after its theatrical run, alongside its Premier Access run, and after its conventional VOD/EST release (it didn’t arrive on DVD and Blu until this past Tuesday) is slightly encouraging.
Meanwhile, despite Netflix signing Addison Rae to a multi-film deal, the opening weekend of He’s All That placed second to both Cruella and the first full week of Sweet Girl. The Jason Momoa/Isabelle Moner actioner logged 658 million minutes in weekend one and 519 million minutes in its second frame, a solid hold for the old-school actioner. The gender-swapped She’s All That remake debuted with 326 million minutes, akin to around 3.8 million viewings of the 91-minute (counting credits) comedy. Considering Netflix did one of their “This new movie will be watched by 55 million households in the first month!” announcements, I will be curious as to its post-debut legs. Let’s hope it held up better than The Kissing Booth 3. Speaking of legs, Sony Animation’s Vivo logged 276 million minutes (-42%) while Pixar’s unkillable Luca nabbed another 268 million minutes (-15%).
Hulu’s original Vacation Friends, which was the first 20th Century Studios feature explicitly intended for streaming, debuted with 275 million minutes. That translates to around 2.75 million views of the John Cena/Lil Rel Howery/Meredith Hagner/Yvonne Orji comedy, which I guess was good enough for Hulu to greenlight a sequel. The film works on its own small-scale terms (Cena is relishing not playing a muscle man), a kind of “direct-to-video” variation of Couples’ Resort. Back in the day, an original star-studded comedy of that nature could A) open with $34 million and still be the second most interesting box office story of the weekend thanks to Paranormal Activity nabbing $7.9 million in 160 theaters. In 2021, the upcoming Paranormal Activity relaunch is heading straight to Paramount+. I feel like there’s a deeper meaning to all of that…