Here’s some good news for moviegoers forced to self-quarantine during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. In an unprecedented move so far amid the shifting and postponed release dates for major movies during the pandemic, NBCUniversal has pledged to make a raft of its titles currently in theaters available for home viewing. Universal Pictures’ “The Invisible Man,” and the just-opened “The Hunt,” as well as Focus Features’ “Emma,” are set to hit VOD platforms as early as this Friday in 48-hour viewing windows for the price of $19.99.
Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls World Tour,” which was set for an April 20 release, will now roll out on Easter weekend this April 10, and will go the day-and-date route for audiences to have the chance to stream the film, or see it on the big-screen if they still wish. When the upcoming “Trolls” sequel heads for its international release on April 20, Universal will make that film available to stream for global audiences also. (That’s a relief for reviewers, too, for whom forthcoming screenings of the film have begun to be canceled.)
“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 said in a statement on Monday morning. “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 is also great news for the box office, too, which took a major nosedive over the weekend due to the outbreak as theaters started to shut down or limit their audience capacities to 50-percent the normal rate. On Sunday night, both Los Angeles and New York announced the shuttering of all non-essential public spaces, and that included movie theaters, with many more cities surely to follow.
Decisions on other upcoming Universal titles have yet to be made, according to Deadline. In response to the pandemic, last week Disney made the call to make “Frozen 2” available on Disney+, and put “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” on VOD platforms far earlier than expected.