July 30, 2020
It’s a fiscal line item no Hollywood studio accountant ever wants to see. Universal Pictures generated just $8 million in 90 days at the box office in the second quarter (ended June 30). Instead of hundreds of millions in ticket sales, Universal, like all other studios, saw its legacy business model sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic — shuttering movie theaters and production globally.
Picking up the slack: home entertainment and content licensing. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment generated $229 million in the quarter from sales of digital and packaged-media titles — on par with the previous-year period. Content licensing generated $850 million in the period — up 18.5% from the equivalent previous-year period.
Total studio revenue topped $1.19 billion, down 18% from $1.45 billion a year ago.
NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said the lack of movie production and marketing costs actually had a positive impact on the quarter, but would have a negative impact on the “coming years.” He said production began on several major films in the past few weeks, including the new Jurassic World: Dominion in the United Kingdom.
The results in part contributed to Universal hammering out a landmark distribution deal with AMC Theatres that enables the studio to deliver movies into homes just 17 days after their theatrical debut.
As expected, Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts said little about studio operations, focusing instead on distribution alternatives and the company’s resilience during the pandemic.
“Based on our results and the many organic growth opportunities that we have across our company, I am confident in our ability to continue to successfully navigate the impact of COVID-19, and emerge from the crisis even stronger,” Roberts said in a statement.