Universal releasing movies for home VOD amid theater chain closures


[UPDATE: Within the past hour, Regal announced that it was closing all of its theaters indefinitely.]

In the wake of the lowest box office weekend in two decades and in the looming shadow of continuing (and worsening) coronavirus-linked moviegoing obstacles, Universal is going to release films currently in theaters for video on demand and home viewing. Additionally, beginning April 10th, with Trolls World Tour, new releases will bow concurrently both streaming on demand and in theaters. This is, of course, if films are still able to release in theaters in another three weeks.

Things shifted quickly last week after the NBA ‘suspended’ its season when one of its players tested positive for COVID-19. Soon, all of sports had been suspended, and with America’s pastimes in  hibernation, all other group activities quickly followed suit. Initially, theaters, led by mega-chains AMC and Regal, defied closures in favor of reduced theater seating capacity, spaced seating allocations, and increased cleaning efforts. But by the weekend Alamo Drafthouse was closing theaters, as were other independents. Further theater restrictions in cities like New York, Monday, continued the trend. Worldwide, theaters in China have been closed for weeks, and chains in Europe have followed their lead.

Thus we come to current theatrical releases like The Invisible Man and The Hunt releasing on home video. The films are expected to be available to rent for 48-hour periods for $19.99 This news comes after the worst box office weekend since September 15 – 17, 2000. This may mark a turning point in how movies are released to general audiences moving forward, the future of the theatrical business, and moviemaking business models in general.

Universal to Make ‘Trolls World Tour,’ ‘The Hunt,’ ‘Invisible Man’ Available Early on Home Entertainment [Variety]