In an unprecedented move, Universal Pictures is shifting some of its upcoming theatrical releases to home distribution in countries where theaters have closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The new strategy will launch with Dreamworks Animation’s Trolls World Tour, scheduled to debut on April 10. The film will still debut theatrically in foreign markets where theaters remain open.
Trolls World Tour will mark the first-ever day-and-date theatrical and VOD availability for a major Hollywood release, an experiment that if successful could have long-term ramifications for theatrical exhibitors. Scott Mendelson at Forbes wrote a good analysis of what this development means for the movie business.
“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. “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 will be available for an on-demand 48-hour rental period for around $20 in the United States. Other countries will have a similar pricing structure. Starting this week, Universal is also making available movies in current cinematic release through this same distribution strategy. These titles include The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma.
Image at top: Editorial illustration. “Trolls World Tour” image courtesy Universal.