Coronavirus: Universal Pictures Will Make Movies in Theaters Available On-Demand Immediately

NBCUniversal made the unprecedented decision on Monday to make the current crop of Universal Pictures movies available at on-demand platforms immediately due to the coronavirus outbreak, including the upcoming Trolls World Tour, on the dates they were scheduled to hit theaters. The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma, which are all in theaters now, could be available as soon as Friday.

The movies will be available to rent for 48 hours at on-demand services for $19.99 and the price equivalent in international markets to give families and audiences new entertainment while staying home during the outbreak. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter the current plan does not cover all of Universal Pictures' 2020 releases, but final decisions on the plan's duration have not been made yet.

"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," the company said in a statement. "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."

"Universal Pictures has a broad and diverse range of movies with 2020 being no exception. 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," NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell added. "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."

Trolls World Tour, produced by DreamWorks Animation, was scheduled to hit theaters on April 10, and will be available to rent that same day. The Hunt, The Invisible Man and Emma will be available by the end of the week.

The decision to make the Trolls sequel available for home viewing the same day it hits theaters is the first move of its kind for a major studio. Universal's marketing machine was already in full swing for the movie, which features the voices of Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick. This also means the movie will avoid the same fate of F9, the new Fast & Furious movie, which was moved from late May 2020 to April 2021.

The move also comes after a historically bad weekend at the box office as Americans avoided theaters during the coronavirus outbreak. The total gross for the weekend hit $55.3 million, the worst total since September 2000, reports Variety. Disney-Pixar's Onward was the highest-grossing release, and only made $10 million.

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Hollywood studios have already postponed dozens of major releases. Disney delayed Mulan, which was supposed to hit theaters on March 27, and a new date has not been set. Paramount took A Quiet Place Part II off the calendar. MGM pushed the James Bond movie No Time to Die from late April to November.

Photo credit: Universal Pictures