As the global box office basically shuttered in early March, Birds of Prey became one of the first titles to break the 90-day video-on-demand release window in an effort to recoup losses. The Harley Quinn sequel hit VOD on March 24 after being in theaters for just six weeks. Normally, this would only make the film available for digital purchase until four weeks later when the rental period kicks in. But, once again, Birds of Prey is shattering conventions.
According to /Film, Birds of Prey is already available for the digital rental price of $5.99 just two weeks after its VOD release. Unfortunately, this surprise move by Warner Bros. led to inaccurate reports that the title is available for purchase at the lower price, but that is not the case. However, that doesn’t change the potential paradigm shift in how soon audiences can rent hot new releases:
The real story here is that Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has broken the traditional VOD rental window. For awhile now, major studio movies become available for digital purchase a couple weeks before they hit Blu-ray and DVD, but they’re not available for rental at that time. It’s when a movie is released on Blu-ray and DVD that a movie becomes available for digital rental. But in this case, with the Blu-ray and DVD release of Birds of Prey slated for May 12, the movie is hitting VOD rental over a month early.
As IndieWire notes, this move has rocketed Birds of Prey to #1 on iTunes, but movie studios could be “playing with fire,” considering audiences were never quick to jump on the $19.99 purchase price for VOD releases. If studios begin to signal that they’ll shorten the rental window, there’s a good chance that cash-strapped audiences might just wait for the cheaper price. Then again, the dramatic increase in digital rentals could be the shot in the arm that studios are looking for while movie theaters sit empty.