"Onward" "Onward"

With nearly all U.S. theaters shut downfor the foreseeable future , distributors are scrambling to adapt.

The latest response: Disney is bringing forward the U.S. digital release of Onward, the new feature from Pixar. From 5 p.m. (PST) today, the film will be available to buy digitally for $19.99 on Movies Anywhere. It will be released on Disney+ in the U.S. on April 3.

Onward, which was released in theaters on March 6, is not the first animated feature to have its theatrical window shortened since the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19). Disney’s Frozen 2, which was still playing in some theaters, was released ahead of schedule on Disney+ last weekend.

Meanwhile, Universal Pictures announced that it will launch Trolls World Tour on home distribution and (where possible) in theaters simultaneously, on April 10. The company is also bringing forward the online launch of several live-action features. Other blockbusters are being indefinitely postponed, including the unfinished Universal/Illumination production Minions: The Rise of Gru.

In its theatrical run, Onward has grossed $103 million worldwide to date. Its mediocre performance (by Pixar standards) was foreshadowed to some extent, but the spread of the virus harmed it more than anyone could have foreseen. Cinemas in most of the world’s major markets are now closed (although China’s, the first to shut, are now tentatively reopening).

Dan Scanlon and Kori Rae, the film’s director and producer, hope to see it return to theaters when the time is right. “While we’re looking forward to audiences enjoying our films on the big screen again soon, given the current circumstances, we are pleased to release this fun, adventurous film to digital platforms early for audiences to enjoy from the comfort of their homes,” they said.

But a broader question remains: once the crisis has died down, will theatrical windows fully reopen? Or will these radical changes to distribution conventions become the norm? Scott Mendelson at Forbes wrote a good analysis of what these developments mean for the movie business.

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