With movie theaters closing or reducing seating capacity due to coronavirus, Universal Pictures will make its movies available on home entertainment on the same day as the films’ global theatrical releases.
The initiative will kick off with DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls World Tour,” which is scheduled to debut on April 10 in the U.S. The company will also make films that are currently in theaters available on-demand starting as early as Friday, March 20. These films include the horror movies “The Hunt” and “The Invisible Man,” as well as “Emma,” an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel from Focus, Universal’s specialty label.
The films will be available for a 48-hour rental period at a suggested retail price of $19.99 in the U.S. and for roughly the same price in international markets. The announcement is a blow to movie theaters, which have long resisted any attempts to shorten the amount of time that movies are available exclusively on the big screen.
“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,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said in a statement. “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.”
“Trolls World Tour” is the latest tentpole to shake up its release plans as Hollywood grapples with coronavirus. Last week, Universal pushed “Fast and Furious” installment “F9” back a year, while Paramount’s “A Quiet Place 2,” Disney’s “Mulan” and MGM’s James Bond movie “No Time to Die’ were indefinitely shelved.
The move by Universal to release “Trolls World Tour” on digital comes after the domestic box office plummeted to a two-decade low last weekend. In light of concerns about coronavirus, movie theater chains limited the amount of tickets sold in individual auditoriums to avoid crowding and increased sanitation efforts.