Universal Pictures was the first studio to decide to release certain films onto VOD streaming services early because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Three of their March theatrical releases- Emma, The Invisible Man, and The Hunt were all released this morning to streaming services. Universal Pictures also announced shocking news: they were breaking the theatrical window and releasing Trolls World Tour day and date in theaters and on VOD. It is unprecedented, and has all of Hollywood wondering if we could see a change in the movie release model going forward.
Meanwhile, theaters are shuttered around the country and world, facing uncertain futures. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Theatrical Owners Chief John Fithian talks about how exhibitioners understand studios shortening the release window for films already released in theaters and playing when the crisis started, like Universal Pictures films listed above and Disney film Onward, among others:
"…for those distributors who already had movies released in theaters that were playing when we had to shut down, we fully understand that they would need to accelerate their home releases. They had already put those movies in cinemas but cinemas had to shut down, so they made those faster moves to the home to try to monetize those movies, and to give people something to watch at home during this crisis."
Much harsher language was reserved for Universal Pictures on Trolls:
"Only Universal, and only on Trolls, did one studio skip the theatrical model and go straight to the home. Universal continues to advertise to consumers that Trolls will be released simultaneously to theaters and the home on April 10. And they are lying to consumers. Universal Pictures knows that theaters will still be closed on April 10 so unlike every other distributor who must simply delay their releases in that time period, but still understand that theatrical release is essential to their business model, Universal on Trolls didn't make that decision. Exhibitors will not forget this."
Man, no mincing words there huh? Looks like Universal is going to be playing some serious damage control on this one long after life gets back to some semblance of normal.
First seen on The Hollywood Reporter