As movie theaters across the country are forced to close down in order to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Universal Pictures has decided to "collapse the theatrical window," according to the Los Angeles Times. This means the production company will begin making new movies available on demand—allowing moviegoers to experience the new releases from the safety of their own home—on the same day as their global theatrical releases. This plan will commence with DreamWorks Animation's Trolls World Tour, which opens on April 10 in the United States.
Not only will Universal Pictures be releasing new theatrical films on demand, they will make their movies currently playing in theaters available for home viewing beginning on Friday (March 20). This includes the horror film The Invisible Man, period comedy-drama Emma. and the satirical thrilled The Hunt. The movies will be available on a wide variety of on-demand services, including those owned by parent company, Philadelphia-based cable giant Comcast Corp., for a 48 hour rental period. Universal Pictures will suggest a retail price of $19.99 for each film, which resembles the price of a movie ticket. The film will also be available on a variety of streaming platforms, including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime and FandangoNow.
While other companies chose to delay the release of their films, Universal decided to carry on with their movies. “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,” NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell told the LA Times. “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 Picture's decision inspired other filmmakers to call for the early on demand release of their films, too. Catchy Yan—director of Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn—revealed her support on Twitter. "I would not be opposed to putting Birds of Prey on VOD earlier," she wrote.
Disney has also decided to release two of their biggest hits from 2019 on Disney+ much earlier than expected. Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker are both available to stream on Disney+, as well as rent or purchase from other digital platforms. In a statement explaining their decision, Disney said it decided to push up the streaming release of both films in order to provide families with “some fun and joy during this challenging period.”
Photo: Universal Pictures