The High Note Starts Strong on VOD as Netflix’s Lovebirds Drops Fast

B-titles with movie stars like Bruce Willis and year-end hits like “Uncut Gems” tend to score on VOD.

Almost four months after indoor theaters shut down, a small fraction are reopening around the country. Drive-ins continue to lead grosses: IFC Films’ “The Wretched” is a standout success. That’s because IFC reports those drive-in numbers. Universal does not: they had the real #1 grosser for the eighth straight week (“The Invisible Man,” just ahead of “Trolls World Tour.”)

Meanwhile, at-home movie-watching habits are evolving into a new normal. This weekend, Focus Features launched “The High Note” as a premium VOD release (along with a few theaters), which marks the second Universal theatrical title (after “Trolls World Tour”) to move to initial home viewing. Judd Apatow’s “The King of Staten Island” is next up on June 12.

Universal is deftly maneuvering in the VOD space; the homevideo division finally lowered prices for premium-price titles “The Hunt” and “The Invisible Man” (which opened in theaters before swiftly moving to VOD), with upbeat results. On the other hand, romantic comedy “The Love Birds,” which Paramount moved out of April release and sold to Netflix, is fading fast from their top ten list. (It’s too soon to know what that means.)

Some star-driven VOD titles also turned up this week, led by the Bruce Willis actioner “Survive the Night.”

“The High Note” strikes a strong initial chord. 

Working Title’s music-world drama “The High Note,” directed by Nisha Gatrana and starring Dakota Johnson, is showing initial good results. Released last Friday, it ranks #2 at FandangoNow’s full week revenue-based chart, after only three days. That suggests that it was #1 for the weekend, even at a pricey $19.99 rental. Unlike “Scoob!” (Warner Bros.) and “Trolls World Tour” (Universal), this modest-budget studio PVOD release is the first original, not-franchise offering that’s not aimed at families.

Because the film likely cost less than $20 million, “The High Note” will need a much lower return to see profit than the other two. It was scheduled as a May 8 theatrical release in 2,000 theaters. A rough guess is that it might have opened to around $8 million with an ultimate $25 million total. 1.25 million rentals during the premium stage would reach the same total, with a far higher return to Focus than from film rental. Again, Universal/Focus is learning on the go.

“The Lincoln Lawyer” beats “The Lovebirds” at Netflix.

An alternative route for studios has been to sell to streamers. Paramount did that early by selling to Netflix Michael Showalter’s “The Love Birds” starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani. In its second week, without the branding that comes from a theatrical release, the movie quickly dropped to #5 among Netflix movies, lower still on the streamer’s all-content chart. The two films it trails are two star vehicles that were modest successes in their time: Adam Sandler’s “Just Go With It” and Matthew McConaughey’s “The Lincoln Lawyer.” They show up only because the streamer just added them.

“Scoob!” and “Trolls World Tour” add to their bounty.

“Scoob!” continues to dominate rentals; it’s #1 at three sites and second at a fourth, even with a premium price tag. (Three of these charts count number of transactions, not revenues.) The animated sequel is playing similar to “Trolls,” and is still strong in its third week. And “Trolls,” now nearing its third month, ranks high at three charts (iTunes doesn’t list it), still at premium price.

“The Invisible Man” leads lower-price resurgence.

Universal has successfully switched several initial mid-March premium films into regular price successes. By far the best is “The Invisible Man,” #1 at iTunes, #3 (and best of the standard price entries) at FandangoNow. There is some risk at lowering the price, but ultimately this is no different that stages of cost from movie tickets, initial PVOD, and reduced-cost VOD. “The Hunt” and earlier Focus’ “Emma” have also seen rebounds.

Movie stars still drive breakouts. 

While there’s a range of VOD, cable, and streaming openings, the public is responding best to bread-and-butter offerings like the B-movies that have always flourished under the radar. This week’s successes include “Survive the Night” from Lionsgate, a modestly marketed home-invader actioner starring Bruce Willis, which is on both Spectrum and FandangoNow’s top ten lists.

Spectrum offers two other little-known titles, “The Inheritance,” a Ukrainian horror film, and “Villain,” about a British ex-con returning to crime. Neither boasts marquee cast: they’re just enticing enough to get bored at-home viewers to spend $6.99.

Year-end hits keep scoring.

Number one at Netflix among movies is “Uncut Gems” (A24) after its terrific theatrical run, followed by weeks of VOD rentals. (The streamer partnered on the film overseas.)

But it’s not the only late-year title still going strong. “Knives Out” won’t let up. It was huge in theaters, strong for months on VOD, and now it’s back at $2.99 a pop, getting elevated interest once again. Meantime “Jumanji: The Next Level” is still going strong in its sixth month.

Oddball random pop-up this week is Michael Mann’s 1995 all-star cops and robber film “Heat,” #5 at iTunes. There’s never been a better time for cinephiles to succumb to a nearly three-hour drama starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

Amazon Prime

Ranked by number of transactions, with the daily position as of Monday, June 1

1. Scoob! (Warner Bros.) – $19.99/$24.99 to buy

2. Trolls World Tour (Universal) – $19.99

3. Bloodshot (Sony) – $5.99

4. The Greatest Showman (Disney) – $3.99

5. Knives Out (Lionsgate) – $2.99

6. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) – $5.99

7. Bad Boys for Life (Sony) – $5.99

8. The Gentlemen (STX) – $5.99

9. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony) – $9.99 to buy

10. Fantasy Island (Sony) – $5.99

FandangoNOW

Ranked by revenue accrued not transactions, for the week ending Monday, June 1

1. Scoob! (Warner Bros.) – $19.99/$24.99 to buy

2. The High Note (Focus) – $19.99

3. The Invisible Man (Universal) – $5.99

4. Trolls World Tour (Universal) – $19.99

5. The Hunt (Universal) – $5.99

6. Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount) – $4.99

7. Bad Boys for Life (Sony) – $4.99

8. Bloodshot (Paramount) – $4.99

9. Survive the Night (Lionsgate) – $6.99

10. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) – $4.99

Spectrum

Ranked by transactions for May 22-28; all $6.99 except as noted

1. Scoob! (Warner Bros.) – $19.99

2. Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount)

8. Bloodshot (Sony)

3. Bad Boys for Life (Sony)

4. Survive the Night (Lionsgate)

5. Fantasy Island (Sony)

6. Trolls World Tour (Universal) – $19.99

7. The Inheritance (Apollo)

8. Bloodshot (Sony)

9. The Invisible Man (Universal)

10. Villain (Saban)

"The Invisible Man"

“The Invisible Man”

Universal

iTunes

Ranked by number of transactions, with the daily position as of Monday, June 1; excludes premium VOD rental-only titles

1. The Invisible Man (Universal) – $5.99

2. Scoob! (Warner Bros.) – $19.99, $24.99 to buy

3. Knives Out (Lionsgate) – $2.99

4. Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount) – $3.99

5. Heat (Warner Bros.) – $3.99

6. The Gentlemen (STX) – $5.99

7. The Way Back (Warner Bros.) – $5.99

8. Bad Boys for Life (Sony) – $5.99

9. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) – $5.99

10. Like a Boss (Paramount)- $2.99

Netflix Movies

Most-viewed, current ranking as of Monday, May 25

1. Uncut Gems (2019 theatrical release)

2. Just Go With It (2011 theatrical release)

3. The Wrong Missy (Netflix original)

4. The Lincoln Lawyer (2011 theatrical release)

5. The Lovebirds (Paramount, originally intended as theatrical release; now Netflix original)

6. The Intuition (2020 Spanish Netflix original)

7. Despicable Me (2010 theatrical release)

8. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018 theatrical release)

9. I’m No Longer Here (2020 Mexican Netflix original)

10. Norm of the North (2016 theatrical release)

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