In brief: With the coronavirus decimating cinema attendance, NBCUniversal has announced its upcoming slate of movies will be available on-demand the same day they’re released in cinemas. This includes upcoming releases like DreamWork’s animation Trolls World Tour and films that are still in their theatrical run, including The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that cinemas are entirely closed in 32 or more markets overseas and partially closed in another 15 territories. It’s expected that this week will see most or possibly all US theaters temporarily close. Cinemas in New York and Los Angeles have already been ordered to shutter, and many locations still open are limiting capacity to 50 people per auditorium.
Combined with so many Americans staying in their homes, the situation has led to the worst US box office weekend—just over $50 million—since 1995, when the top-grossing movie was, ironically, Outbreak.
As a way of coping with its lost revenue, NBCUniversal is making movies from its Universal Pictures stable available from a variety of on-demand services as soon as they hit the cinema. One of these will be DreamWork’s animation Trolls World Tour, which arrives on April 10, and films that are still in their theatrical run, including The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma, will hit digital platforms this Friday.
Movies will be available for a 48-hour period from NBCUniversal sister companies Comcast and Sky as well as a broad range of on-demand partners. They will cost around $20 in the US, with equivalent pricing in other locations. That’s obviously a lot higher than the usual VOD rental prices, but it reflects how much more money films make at the cinema compared to sales and rentals.
“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,” said NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell.