With people across the country largely confined to their homes and movie theaters struggling and temporarily shutting down, the major movie studios are bringing movies to consumers much sooner than they otherwise would have.
Over the weekend, Disney+ added animated theatrical hit Frozen 2 to its lineup three months sooner than planned, giving subscribers access to the film.
Comcast-owned Universal Pictures is following suit but in a much broader way. This Friday, Universal will make three movies that are currently in theaters—horror film Invisible Man, starring Elisabeth Moss; Focus Features’ Jane Austin remake Emma; and satirical thriller The Hunt—available on parent company’s Comcast and Sky premium TV platforms for $19.99 for a 48-hour rental period. The movies also will be released on other non-Comcast-owned on-demand platforms, including iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Prime.
Universal will collapse that window much further when it releases animated film Trolls World Tour simultaneously in theaters and on on-demand platforms on April 10.
Typically, studios must wait a required 90 days before releasing films from their theatrical windows.
“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,” said NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell, according to the Los Angeles 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.”
The global box office suffered its worst weekend in more than two decades over this past weekend, taking in only a total of $55.3 million in the U.S. and Canada, down 45 percent from the prior weekend. That’s forced the release of some major movies, such as Universal’s Fast and Furious sequel F9 and Disney’s Mulan, to be pushed by as much as a year.
Making matters worse for the movie industry is that in an attempt to drastically slow the spread of coronavirus, movie theaters are closing across the country. On Monday, Regal Cinemas became the first major American movie-theater chain to close all 543 of its locations, and Regal was followed by National Amusements’ Showcase Cinemas. Universal’s move is an attempt to retain some of its movie revenue while in-home viewing spikes during what is evolving into a national quarantine.
On Monday, President Donald Trump asked citizens to keep their social gatherings to no more than ten people, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended restricting gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks.
READ MORE: Los Angeles Times