Update: March 18, 2020 – Sony’s Bloodshot, the superhero action movie starring Vin Diesel, dropped in theaters just last weekend. Now, Deadline reports it will be the latest film to make a quick release to digital due to the coronavirus outbreak shutting down theaters. The movie will be in various digital stores on March 24 for $19.99.
Original story – March 16, 2020 – The coronavirus outbreak is causing tons of people to stay away from movie theaters. Local governments are forcing theaters to shut down for at least a few weeks. Because of this trend, Universal Pictures has decided to bring its current theatrical slate to the home. The Hollywood studio stated that several of its latest movies will soon be available for online rental and streaming, well ahead of their normal digital debuts. That includes the upcoming animated movie Trolls World Tour. It will also be made available for online rental on the same date it was supposed to be in theaters, on April 10.
The Hollywood Reporter announced that Universal’s other movies that are currently in theaters (The Invisible Man, Emma, and The Hunt) will be available for online rental from a variety of digital outlets starting on Friday, March 20. Customers can rent and stream each movie for 48 hours for $19.99 in the US. While that’s a lot more expensive than the normal online rental price for a movie, customers are getting them much closer to their theatrical release date.
Universal added that all of the movies on the studio’s current 2020 release schedule may not follow this same formula. A decision on if other upcoming Universal films will be released online in the same way will be made in the future. Universal has already delayed one big franchise film, Fast 9, from a May 22 release date to sometime in April 2021.
It’s clear that Universal is concerned that movie theaters could be either shut down or avoided by large crowds for some time to come. Releasing their current slate as online rentals is an attempt to get back some of the revenues that are being lost while those films remain in theaters.
The big question: Will other movie studios follow suit and offer their current and upcoming theatrical films with the same online rental formula?