The COVID-19 global pandemic has led to massive closures and delays, and Universal Pictures aims to do something about it.
MLB, NBA, NHL, and March Madness have all been canceled or delayed. Many conventions like Wondercon, SXSW, and CinemaCon have been canceled or delayed. Restaurants have been closed to dining in and events with crowds of 50 or more people have been asked to cancel or delay. All movie theaters in Los Angeles and New York have been ordered to shut down.
Major releases have been delayed until much later in the year, like MGM’s latest Bond film No Time To Die, which is now scheduled to release in November instead of April. Some are even scheduled for next year, like Universal’s F9, the latest in The Fast and The Furious franchise which was pushed to 2021 last week.
Other upcoming films have been delayed without a new release date set, instead waiting to see what happens with the coronavirus pandemic. Some of these titles include Paramount’s A Quiet Place II as well as Disney’s live action Mulan remake and New Mutants. One of the few movies that is still slated to come out in the coming months is Black Widow, which as of now will still debut on May 1, 2020.
Universal Wants To Restart The Feeling
However, Universal’s Trolls World Wide will still debut on April 10, 2020. The only catch? It won’t only be in theaters. Instead of delaying this film, Universal has decided to release the family friendly animated movie through video on demand the same day it hits theaters.
Universal will also be releasing its films currently in theaters through on demand for people to enjoy at home while they are self-isolated. These titles will include Focus Features’ Jane Austen adaptation Emma, as well as Blumhouse’s horror films The Invisible Man and The Hunt.
This is not an overall policy for all of Universal’s 2020 releases, decisions for future releases have not yet been made. Those decision will likely depend on how well Trolls and the films already in theaters do on demand and how long the pandemic lasts.
“Given the rapidly evolving and unprecedented changes to consumers’ daily lives during this difficult time, the company felt that now was the right time to provide this option in the home as well as theaters. NBCUniversal will continue to evaluate the environment as conditions evolve and will determine the best distribution strategy in each market when the current unique situation changes,” stated NBCUniversal’s release.
“Universal Pictures has a broad and diverse range of movies with 2020 being no exception. 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,” NBCUniversal’s CEO Jeff Shell said in the same 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.”
Universal has made this decision following the lowest box office weekend since 1995. This may be an experiment to test out how well Trolls, Emma, The Hunt, and The Invisible Man do on demand. The films will be available for 48-hour rental periods at a suggested retail price of $19.99 in the U.S. and the price equivalent in international markets. Trolls will benefit from a major marketing campaign that is already underway and the fact that it is one of the few movies coming out anytime soon. Trolls day-and-date release is the first major debut of 2020 to go on demand.
Movie theaters have long fought for films to stay in theater for longer periods of time before being available on demand so this could be a major blow for them along with closures across the country for an indeterminate amount of time. Major delays of other upcoming films make it clear that studios are hesitant to release their upcoming blockbusters on demand or on streaming services, instead trying to wait it out. However, if the pandemic lasts months this could potentially change.