Universal Pictures Going The Home Video Way

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Universal Pictures is planning to make available new films available to stream the same day they’re released in theatres as the coronavirus pandemic has led to the shutdown of several cinemas around the world.

The studio’s new releases will be available for at-home and theatrical viewing on the same day starting with the April 10 release of the animated feature “Trolls World Tour,” parent company NBCUniversal said. Universal films already released in theatres — such as the horror flick “The Invisible Man” and the satirical thriller “The Hunt” — will be available for digital rentals by Friday, according to a news release.

The move announced Monday breaks with the longstanding convention of showing movies in theatres exclusively for 90 days before releasing them elsewhere. NBCUniversal attributed the decision to changes in consumer behaviour caused by the coronavirus, which has forced movie theatres to close as officials urge people to stay at home as much as possible.

“We hope and believe that people will still go to the movies in theatres where available, but we understand that for people in different areas of the world that is increasingly becoming less possible,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said in a statement.

Films from Universal and its Focus Features speciality label will be available to rent online for 48 hours at a suggested retail price of $19.99, NBCUniversal said. They’ll be offered by NBCUniversal’s sister companies Comcast and Sky as well as several “on-demand partners,” according to the news release.

Officials in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Los Angeles have ordered movie theatres to close in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The AMC and Regal cinema chains have also said they will temporarily shut their theatres across the US.