Comcast’s NBCUniversal division is making a somewhat unprecedented move amid the backdrop of COVID-19 social interaction austerity, closing the theatrical window of its current feature films.
Titles from Universal and its specialty label Focus Features that are in the theatrical windows now, including The Hunt, The Invisible Man and Emma, will be available for rental on “a wide variety of the most popular on-demand services” for $19.99 starting Friday, March 20. Rentals will allow users the standard 48 hours after the transaction to stream the movie.
Also, Trolls World Tour, set for release from NBCU’s DreamWorks Animation division, will stream day and date with what was supposed to be its theatrical release date, April 10.
NBCU is making the move as municipalities including New York and Los Angeles order the closure of restaurants, bars, movie theaters, gyms and virtually every other public space in a somewhat coordinated effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Theatrical releases have been but one of numerous business badly impacted by the pandemic. Widely promoted, The Hunt generated just over $6.5 million in global box office this weekend.
“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,” said NBCU CEO Jeff Shell, in a statement. “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.”
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