NBCUniversal said it will make its movies available to watch in the home the same day as their global theatrical releases, as cinemas worldwide close and attendance drops because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trolls World Tour, a DreamWorks Animation movie set to open April 10 in the US, will be the first film with what’s known as a day-and-date release — when the theatrical debut and home-viewing release are the same day.
Movies including The Hunt, The Invisible Man and Emma that are already in theaters will be available via on-demand services (like iTunes and Amazon Video, for example) as early as Friday. They’ll be available for a 48-hour rental period at a suggested retail price of $19.99 in the US or the price equivalent in international markets, the Comcast-owned company said.
It’s the first time a major Hollywood studio has collapsed the traditional lifecycle of a movie release for films that either haven’t come out yet or are still in theaters. Usually movies spend roughly six months only in cinemas before they move to other formats, like digital downloads and rentals, DVDs and, later, TV and streaming.
“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,” Jeff Shell, the CEO of NBCUniversal, 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.”
An important note: None of the latest movies that NBCUniversal is releasing online early are the mega-budget films that studios make expecting them to be eye-popping global blockbusters. The Fast and Furious franchise often has films with budgets exceeding $200 million, plus millions more spent on huge marketing campaigns. But earlier this month, Universal opted to delay F9‘s release nearly a year.
NBCUniversal said it will continue to evaluate its distribution strategies as conditions evolve in each market “when the current unique situation changes.”
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