'Paw Patrol' box office haul shows why some studios are pushing kid films to 2022 or selling to streaming services

  • "Paw Patrol" is one of the hottest TV shows for kids, but the film tallied only $13 million in box office sales this weekend, as it was also available to stream on Paramount+.
  • Children under the age of 12 are not eligible for Covid-19 vaccines, prompting some families to stay away from movie theaters.
  • Family-oriented films have had tepid box office results, leading some studios to postpone major animated features or seek out deals with established streaming services.

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"Paw Patrol: The Movie" snagged only $13 million in domestic box office sales during its opening weekend, signaling that families are not ready to return to movie theaters, especially if films are made available on streaming platforms at the same time.

Based on one of the hottest kids TV franchises, the Paramount animated film debuted this weekend in theaters and through streaming service Paramount+. With children under the age of 12 currently unable to get vaccinated against Covid-19, it's not surprising the film didn't pull a large theatrical audience.

"The family audience has a different set of priorities when it comes to how they want to watch movies," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. "Parents are making the determination of where to see a film based on many variables, including those that have to do with the movie itself of course, but also other factors that are related to the pandemic and this makes for quite a complicated situation."

While "Paw Patrol" outpaced some analysts' box office expectations, it is part of a wider trend of tepid ticket sales for family-oriented films.

Sony's "Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway" has garnered $40.5 million in ticket sales domestically and a little more than $100 million internationally since it was released in June, according to data from Comscore. For comparison, the first "Peter Rabbit" film scored $115 million at the domestic box office and $231.4 million in sales from foreign markets.

Similarly, Universal's "The Boss Baby: Family Business" has tallied under $100 million in sales globally since its July release, while its first film secured $527.9 million worldwide.

These smaller box office results explain why a studio like Universal has postponed its film "Minions: The Rise of Gru" until 2022 and why Sony is reported to be in talks with Amazon Prime Video to sell "Hotel Transylvania 4" for $100 million.

After all, Universal's three Despicable Me films generated more than $2.5 billion in global box office sales and its first "Minions" film took in $1.15 billion. Even with its streaming service Peacock available, Universal foresees a higher upside from postponing the sequel until next year.

As for Sony, the Hotel Transylvania franchise has collected more than $1.3 billion in box office receipts globally since 2012. Each sequel has generated around $100 million more than the last. Sony does not have a dedicated streaming service, so it could benefit from a theatrical-only release of its film. However, as the delta variant rages in the U.S., there's no guarantee families with unvaccinated children will venture to theatres in droves.

Sony can get a guaranteed payout from Amazon that it won't have to split with movie theater operators.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal released "The Boss Baby: Family Business" and will distribute "Minions: The Rise of Gru."

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