With several theaters across the globe shutting down or reducing their seating capacity to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Universal Pictures is breaking the theatrical window and making its current movies in cinematic release — The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma — available in homes starting Friday for on-demand 48-hour rental at $20 each.
NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell made the announcement on Monday, which applies for both domestic and offshore markets where the aforementioned titles are in the middle of their theatrical run.
Since the COVID-19 situation around the world doesn’t seem to get better anytime soon, Universal Pictures will also release DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour as a $20 digital rental in the U.S. starting April 10th — the same day of its domestic theatrical release date. The movie, which stars Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake, will also be available on home entertainment in international markets around April 20th for roughly the same price.
Universal Pictures’ same-day theatrical and VOD release policy is just temporary and doesn’t apply to every single movie coming out. “NBCUniversal will continue to evaluate the environment as conditions evolve and will determine the best distribution strategy in each market when the current unique situation changes,” read the statement on Monday.
The decision to release The Invisible Man, The Hunt, Emma, and Trolls World Tour in digital rentals sooner than the usual theatrical window of 90 days gives Universal Pictures a more convenient way to earn revenue following a historically poor domestic box office performance this past weekend, which just brought in $55.3 million across the board — the worst number for this week of the year since 1995. Of Universal Pictures current theatrical movies, The Invisible Man and Emma saw 60 percent and 72 percent drops this weekend, respectively, compared to last weekend.
“Universal Pictures has a broad and diverse range of movies with 2020 being no exception. Rather than delaying these films or releasing them into a challenged distribution landscape, we wanted to provide an option for people to view these titles in the home that is both accessible and affordable,” said Shell. “We hope and believe that people will still go to the movies in theaters where available, but we understand that for people in different areas of the world that is increasingly becoming less possible.”
Universal Pictures breaking the theatrical window is the latest theatrical impact the coronavirus has had on the film industry as a whole. The release dates for Disney’s live-action adaptation of Mulan, James Bond movie No Time to Die, and the ninth installment in the Fast & Furious film series have already been delayed due to the virus. Several film productions have also been temporarily shut down to contain the virus, which of course, could result in more delays in future movies.