As the coronavirus pandemic decimates demand at the local multiplex bijou and new crowd restrictions taking hold, Universal Pictures said yesterday that it will start making current movies available for home viewing for 20 bucks each starting this week.
“The Comcast-owned studio and its specialty label Focus Features will make films such as ‘The Invisible Man,’ ‘The Hunt’ and ‘Emma,’ all of which are currently playing in theaters, available to rent on demand services such as Comcast, Sky, Apple and Amazon on Friday. … DreamWorks Animation’s ‘Trolls World Tour’ will be also on demand starting on April 10, the same day it’s set to be released in North American theaters,” CNN’s Frank Pallotta and Brian Lowry report.
“The announcement is a blow to movie theaters, which have long resisted any attempts to shorten the amount of time that movies are available exclusively on the big screen,” writes Brent Lang for Variety.
“The announcement comes after a historically poor weekend at the box office across the board, one that saw overall figures bring in just $55.3 million — the worst numbers for this week of the year since 1995. Of Universal’s current theatrical films, ‘The Invisible Man’ and ‘Emma’ saw 60% and 72% drops, respectively, compared to last weekend, numbers that will likely get worse this coming weekend,” Chaim Gartenberg writes for The Verge.
“The new policy collapses the traditional theatrical window as the film industry grapples with unprecedented circumstances. Cinemas are entirely closed in 32 or more markets overseas and partially closed in another 15 territories, while more countries expected to follow suit. Most, if not all, cinemas are likely to go dark this week in the U.S., where theaters have already been ordered to go dark in New York City and Los Angeles. Other locales are also seeing closures, while circuits staying open are starting to limit capacity to 50 people per auditorium per new CDC guidelines,” Pamela McClintock writes for The Hollywood Reporter.
“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 in 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,” Comcast NBCUniversal states in a release.
“The average price of a movie ticket in the United States is $9.16, according to the National Association of Theater Owners. Standard movie tickets cost $16 to $18 in cities like New York and Los Angeles, and IMAX screenings run about $22,” Brooks Barnes and Nicole Sperling write for The New York Times.
“The association did not respond to a request for comment on Universal’s move. Neither did AMC, the largest chain in the United States. But in a sign of the challenging environment, the owner of Regal Theatres, the second-largest chain, said that beginning Tuesday it would be shutting down its 542 theaters with a total of 7,155 screens” until further notice, Barnes and Sperling add.
“This is both a no-brainer and a big deal.The no-brainer part is that it has become all but impossible for studios to release their movies in theaters because theaters are being shut down across the world due to the coronavirus pandemic,” writes Peter Kafka for Vox.
“The big deal part is that some customers and some studios have been asking for this for years -- either by allowing so-called ‘day and date’ releases, where you can watch the movie at home the same day it comes out in theaters, or, more modestly, by shortening the ‘window' between the time movies come out in theaters and the time you can watch them at home,” Kafka adds.
“Until today, studios were simply postponing the theatrical release dates of important films in reaction to coronavirus, rather than experiment with online releases. Universal rescheduled the release of the 'Fast & Furious’ sequel, F9, from April of this year until April of 2021. The potential box office sales of that movie were simply too large to give up,” Adam Epstein writes for Quartz.
Okay, who’s popping the gourmet popcorn?