Universal Pictures will start making some of its new films available on home entertainment platforms early as movie theaters close or cut down on seating because of the coronavirus pandemic, Variety reports.
The first slate of films will be available as early as this Friday, March 20th, and comprises pictures Universal currently has in theaters, including the long-beleaguered and controversial satire The Hunt, as well as The Invisible Man and Emma. Going forward, Universal will make upcoming films — such as Trolls World Tour — available at home the same day they arrive in whatever theaters remain open.
The films will be available on all major digital platforms with a suggested price of $19.99 and a 48-hour rental period. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, this new policy won’t cover every upcoming film on Universal’s calendar, nor is it clear how long the policy will be in place.
“Universal Pictures has a broad and diverse range of movies, with 2020 being no exception,” said NBCUniversal CEO Jef Shell in a statement. “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. 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’s decision comes after the movie industry suffered its lowest box-office weekend since 2000, with ticket sales generating approximately $55.3 million. While Universal is the first major studio to announce it will make its new films available on-demand earlier (although Disney said it will make Frozen 2 available three months ahead of time), it and other studios have already started pushing back major tent-pole pictures because of the coronavirus.
The ninth Fast and Furious movie was delayed until next year, the new James Bond film, No Time to Die, was postponed until November, and the live-action remake of Mulan and A Quite Place Part II were both delayed with no new release dates announced as yet.