NBCUniversal made a startling announcement Monday morning: In repose to the ongoing coronavirus situation in the United States — which has seen many of the nation’s major movie venues closed — the company’s Universal films division will be releasing theatrical releases day-and-date on VOD.
The first film to go the on-demand route will be DreamWork’s “Trolls World Tour,” which is scheduled for an April 10 release in theatres. According to a release from NBCUniversal, films that are currently in release — “The Invisible Man,” “The Hunt” and “Emma” — could go the VOD route as early as this Friday (March 20). The titles will be available from Comcast and Sky, NBCUniversal’s sister companies, as well as other on-demand services at a suggested retail price of $19.99 for a 48-hour period.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Cinemas are entirely closed in 32 or more markets overseas and partially closed in another 15 territories, while more countries are expected to follow suit. Most, if not all, cinemas are likely to go dark this week in the U.S., were 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.”
“Universal Pictures has a broad and diverse range of movies with 2020 being no exception,” said NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said in a release. “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.
“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,” read the company’s release.