Universal Pictures releasing current titles on VOD amid coronavirus

Universal Pictures releasing current titles on VOD amid coronavirus

With movie theaters shuttered across the country and people confined to their homes because of the coronavirus outbreak, Universal Pictures has decided to make several new movies available for streaming at home.

The day-and-date release for Trolls World Tour will be concurrent with the local theatrical release date in each global market where it will be available in theaters. "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", said Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, in a press conference Monday morning.

For their VOD release, the films will be available for a 48-hour rental period for $19.99 in the U.S, and about the same price internationally, which is significantly more expensive than the rental price for most films when they hit VOD months after their theatrical run (typically, three or four dollars to rent, and 15 to 20 dollar purchase).

As Deadline reports, the at-home availability represents "an unprecedented crunch of the theatrical window" as movie theaters close across the U.S.in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The spread of coronavirus has been met by a global effort to create social distance and avoid public gatherings; predictably, this has kept viewers out of theaters, and the USA box office has tumbled to a 20-year low, per The Hollywood Reporter.

While Universal's strategy could be set aside once the current crisis ends, there are also broader questions about how the pandemic will affect the theatrical movie business.

Films that have already been released in theaters-including The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma-will be available to rent as soon as Friday from on-demand streaming services like iTunes, Amazon Prime Video and FandangoNow for $19.99.

Home audiences will also get to binge Autumn de Wilde's big-screen adaptation of based on Jane Austen's 1815 novel Emma starring Anya Taylor-Joy stars as the titular matchmaker Emma Woodhouse.

Given that US President Trump just advised the public not to gather in groups of greater than 10, per a tweet by CBS' Mark Knoller, it might be an increasingly attractive solution.

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