COVID-19 quarantines are forcing people to suddenly look for ways to keep themselves from going crazy over a prolonged period stuck at home. For better or for worse, this has become an opportunity for streaming and video-on-demand services to offer something to ease the pain. Disney has already released its record-breaking Frozen 2 on Disney+ and the last major Star Wars film on digital this week. Now Universal Pictures is doing something that seems magnanimous but also deals a heavy blow to an already ailing theater industry.
The theme these days seems to be to expedite the availability of films on digital channels. The idea is so that people will have more things to watch (maybe more than once) during either imposed or voluntary quarantine periods. Of course, the arrangement can be seen as mutually beneficial, especially for services whose statistics and maybe even subscribers will see a spike during this period.
Universal Pictures, however, is doing something rather unconventional. It will also be releasing digital versions of its films early but the difference is that these films are still to debut in theaters or are currently already showing.
“Trolls World Tour”, for example, won’t be showing until April 10 but when it does, it will be immediately available on on-demand channels. “The Hunt”, “The Invisible Man”, and “Emma” are currently showing in theaters but will be available likewise starting March 20. Renting the films will cost $19.99 apiece for a 48-hour duration.
Moviegoers will definitely appreciate the gesture, especially since going to theaters can now be life-threatening. It also allows Universal Pictures to reach those audiences stuck at home or those that may have never visited a movie house in the first place. Unfortunately for the struggling theater business, it means even fewer customers and, therefore, fewer profits.