June 22, 2020
In another blow to the theatrical window, Paramount Pictures is taking pending summer blockbuster release The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run off its theatrical slate and instead sending it direct-to-consumer via premium VOD in 2021, followed by SVOD platform CBS All Access.
The movie was originally slated for the Memorial Day weekend, but was pushed back to Aug. 7 when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered all movie theaters.
SpongeBob joins Warner Bros.’ Scoob! and Universal Pictures’ Trolls World Tour as big-budget theatrical releases bypassing the box office for distribution into home entertainment channels. Trolls generated $100 million in PVOD revenue in three weeks, while Warner has yet to release revenue data for Scoob! With the third theatrical “SpongeBob SquarePants” installment aimed at similar audiences to Scoob! and Trolls, Paramount’s decision to skip an uncertain theatrical debut makes fiscal sense.
“We are thrilled to have … a premier, first-run movie from one of ViacomCBS’s biggest brands, join CBS All Access’ expanding slate of franchise content from across ViacomCBS,” Marc DeBevoise, chief digital officer of ViacomCBS, and president and CEO of ViacomCBS Digital, said in a statement. “This launch will be perfectly timed with our continued expansion and planned rebranding of the service in early 2021, as we welcome SpongeBob and the gang from Bikini Bottom to the service in the biggest way possible.”
In addition to Sponge on the Run, all prior seasons of “SpongeBob SquarePants” also will be available on the expanded All Access service soon.
It remains to be seen how exhibitors react to Paramount’s move. AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron said he understands studios going straight to the consumer when screens are shut down. He does not agree with studios releasing new movies in theaters concurrent with home entertainment.
Regardless, direct-to-consumer has big shoes to fill considering the first “SpongeBob” movie release generated $141 million at the global box office in 2004, while the 2015 sequel, Sponge Out of Water, earned $325.1 million.