As health and government officials warn people to stay home to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and the shutdown of non-essential businesses begin to roll out across the country, box office hauls are taking a massive hit as movie theaters sit virtually empty. Until now, movie studios have adopted a “wait and see” approach to the pandemic, but Universal will the be the first to break the seal on making theatrical releases available for on-demand rental starting this week.
Beginning with The Hunt and The Invisible Man, and a day-and-date rental release for Trolls World Tour on April 10, Universal will offer titles for rent over streaming at a price of $19.99 for 24 hours. CNN reports:
Universal said in a statement that it made its movies available in the home now rather than because of the “current circumstances,” which have “made it more challenging to view our films.”
“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,” the studio said in a statement on Monday. “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.”
While movie lovers have been begging studios to adopt a streaming approach to theatrical releases so they won’t miss out on their favorite films while stuck at home, some are balking at the sticker price, according to CNN’s Frank Pallotta who tweeted the following:
I’m seeing people say, “$20 is a lot to rent a movie!” Is it? The national average for movie tickets is ~$10. And in major cities it’s way more than that. That said, if Invisible Man, a $7M production, costs $20 to rent, how much would Mulan, a $200M production, cost? $50?
Palotta does have a point. A trip to the movies can easily cost $20 for just two people, and it’s double that if you’re a family of four. That said, audiences are used to a much lower price point when it comes to rental, but these are uncharted waters, so it’ll be interesting to see just how well this model works as studios are forced to shelve blockbuster after blockbuster in the weeks ahead.