On Monday afternoon, Universal announced The Hunt, The Invisible Man, Emma, and Trolls World Tour will be moved from theatrical release to on-demand later in the week. On Sunday, we learned all movie theaters in New York and Los Angeles — two major U.S. hubs in every regard — will be closed until further notice over growing concerns about coronavirus. As many continue to practice safe social distancing and self-quarantining, movie theaters will be hit hard from lack of audience members. In this crunch, Universal is making what could become a popular decision with other studios to ensure eyeballs (and dollars) are going towards new releases.
Per a press release, Universal will be moving its current theatrical titles as well as titles from studios under its umbrella, DreamWorks Animation and Focus Features, into on-demand to make at-home viewing much easier. Beginning Friday, March 20, Universal will make The Hunt, The Invisible Man, and Emma available for a 48-hour rental period through on-demand rental platforms for a suggested retail price of $19.99 (with equivalent pricing in overseas markets). Additionally, Trolls World Tour will be available on-demand the same day it is set to debut in theaters on April 10.
In an official statement, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell commented,
“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. 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.”
This move means it will be a more accessible option for those keen to see these movies without worrying about going into a public space. The weekend of March 13 was one of the lowest-grossing weekends at the box office we’ve seen in recent memory, with the top movie, Onward, earning a mere $10.5 million domestic. Further repercussions in the wake of numerous movie and TV projects shutting down and studios delaying release dates are expected to have a significant financial and personal impact on Hollywood and the people who make it run.