Similar to many movies that have been released during the pandemic, “Zola” is landing on digital rental platforms earlier than expected. Historically, new films play exclusively in theaters for at least 75 days before audiences can rent them on premium video-on-demand services, such as Amazon, iTunes and FandangoNow, for $19.99. COVID-19 upended the industry’s traditional ways of doing business, leading some Hollywood studios to put its recent releases on the small screen, where moviegoers can watch at home, less than a month after a film debuts in theaters.
Directed by Janicza Bravo, “Zola” opened in North American cinemas on June 30 and has collected $3.5 million at the box office to date. The film isn’t leaving theaters; it’ll still be available to watch on the big screen, as well as from the comfort of audiences’ couches.
“Zola,” starring Taylour Paige and Riley Keough as fast friends who embark on a wild road trip to strip clubs in Florida, premiered at 2020’s Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews. Tony-nominated playwright Jeremy O. Harris (“Slave Play”) and Bravo co-wrote the screenplay, which is based on Aziah “Zola” King’s 144-tweet epic and the Rolling Stone article “The Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted” that memorialized the unbelievable true story. After the pandemic hit and forced movie theaters to close, the $5 million-budgeted film was delayed a year and a half. Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman called “Zola” the “must-see movie of the summer.”
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“There are a lot ways to describe “Zola,” the scandalously intoxicating mad-dog erotic-underworld drama with a title that doesn’t tell you much about it,” Gleiberman wrote. “It’s a true story so extravagant it feels like it must have been made up. It’s a mini volcano of sex and violence and danger and deception. It’s a close-to-the-bone portrait of women who work in the sex industry. It’s a youthquake as real as ‘American Honey.’ It’s a piece of pure filmmaking bravura.”