The Quorum

Should Sony have held on to theatrical for HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMIA?

The HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA franchise may not get the same attention as the Minions or Buzz Lightyear, but it has been a remarkably consistent performer for Sony.

The original film, released in 2012, opened to $43M making it the largest opening ever for a September animated movie. Three years later, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 broke the record again when it debuted to $48M. To this day, they still represent the two largest openings for a September animated movie. 

The third one shifted to the summer 2018, where it grossed $44M on its opening weekend.

It’s very uncommon to see three films from a franchise all perform in such a narrow range. 

It was no surprise, then, that a fourth film was swiftly put into production. What is surprising is that back in August, Sony sold the distribution rights to Amazon for $100M, given that HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: SUMMER VACATION (HT3) made over $520M worldwide. 

All of this begs the question, did Sony leave some money on the table by selling it to amazon for $100M?

Let’s look at the numbers. Of the pandemic-era animated films released in theaters, ENCANTO has made the most with $215M worldwide. SING 2, which currently sits at $191M, may end up passing ENCANTO, but it’s clear that today animated films simply aren’t reaching the half-billion mark like HT3. 

Ok, but maybe HT4 would be different. Perhaps, had the film received a theatrical release, it would have passed both SING 2 and ENCANTO. Obviously, we will never know, but with HT4 launching on Amazon this Friday, what we can say is that HT4 is tracking strikingly similar to SING 2. 

SING 2 (light yellow) had an awareness of 48 when it opened in December. At three days out, awareness for HT4 is just a point behind at 47.

It’s the same story on the interest side. SING 2 (navy) opened with an interest score of 5.5, while HT4 is at 5.4. 

To date, SING 2 has made $108M here at home and $190M worldwide. Plus, there’s still gas in the tank. It’s possible that the film could reach $150M domestically and over $250M worldwide when it’s all said and done. And given that there are very few new releases on the schedule for January, the light competition could propel SING 2 even higher. 

Based on that, we can get a sense of what HT4 would have grossed had Sony held on to it. What’s unclear is if the $100M they made for selling the film to Amazon is greater than what the studio would have made had they released it theatrically. 

There are several other variables in play. For example, we know that Sony saved another $50M by not having to spend on advertising and marketing. That’s more money in the bank for them. 

We also don’t know what this means regarding future HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA films. What happens down the road if there is a HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 5? Would Sony hold on to theatrical rights should another film be made? Does the fact that HT4 is opening on a streaming service diminish the theatrical value of future films in the series? 

We know that studios are still unclear about how to release animated films. Just last week, Disney pulled Pixar’s off the theatrical release schedule and moved it to Disney+. In the case of HT4, it’s hard to tell if Sony made the right decision by selling it to Amazon. More apparent is that Amazon got a fully finished film from a successful franchise with a built-in audience. 

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