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Coronavirus Game-Changer: NBCUniversal Makes Theatrical Movies Available On Demand Immediately

After years of debate about shrinking the theatrical window, NBCUniversal is scrapping it altogether.

According to a new report, the company is going to release several Universal Pictures’ theatrical offerings on-demand at the same time that they hit theaters.

A Game-Changing Decision

According to The Hollywood Reporter, NBCUniversal is taking the unprecedented step of making “its current movies from the Universal Pictures stable — including the upcoming event family movie Trolls World Tour — available on-demand at the same time they hit those theaters that remain open during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Starting as early as Friday, March 20, 2020

Theatrical films including Universal’s The Hunt and The Invisible Man and Focus Features’ Emma will be available to stream on a variety of on-demand platforms. (Trolls World Tour will hit theaters and on-demand on April 10, 2020.)

The movies will be available for “a 48-hour rental period at a suggested retail price of $19.99 in the U.S. and the price equivalent in international markets.”

For most of the last decade, there have been conversations in Hollywood about shortening the theatrical window – minimizing the length of time between a film’s theatrical release and home viewing.

Theaters have been fighting to preserve the extended window,

Will This Be Hollywood’s New Normal?

Sources acknowledge this simultaneous release plan “isn’t a blanket policy for the studio’s entire 2020 calendar, and that decisions regarding other titles and the duration of the policy haven’t been made yet.” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell issued a statement commenting on the policy:

“Given the rapidly evolving and unprecedented changes to consumers’ daily lives during this difficult time…

the company felt that now was the right time to provide this option in the home as well as in theaters. NBCUniversal will continue to evaluate the environment as conditions evolve and will determine the best distribution strategy in each market when the current unique situation changes.

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.”

The question becomes: once this move has been initiated, can studios return to their old ways?

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