Coronavirus: Universal Pictures Offers Theatrical Releases at Home on Same Day


With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic deeply impacting the box office across the globe, NBCUniversal — the parent company of Universal Pictures and DreamWorks, behind franchises such as Fast & Furious and Kung Fu Panda — has taken a drastic measure in a bid to stem the losses: do away with theatrical windows entirely. That means its movies will be available for viewing at home on the same day as when they come out in cinemas. It’s an unprecedented move, one that has the potential to upend the existing model, after the coronavirus scare has subsided. For now, this is applicable to Trolls World Tour, The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma.

“Universal Pictures has a broad and diverse range of movies with 2020 being no exception,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said in a prepared statement. “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 theatres where available, but we understand that for people in different areas of the world, that is increasingly becoming less possible.”

Elisabeth Moss-starrer sci-fi horror The Invisible Man, the Damon Lindelof-co-written thriller The Hunt, and the Jane Austen adaptation Emma will be the first to arrive, starting as early as this Friday, March 20. (In India, The Invisible Man released February 28. The other two didn’t get a theatrical release.) Meanwhile, the animated kids’ sequel Trolls World Tour will arrive in the same week as its local release. That’s April 10 in the US, and April 17 in India.

All titles will be available for rent for a duration of 48 hours, at $20 (about Rs. 1,500) in the US and the equivalent price elsewhere. That’s around what tickets cost in the US and over three times the usual rental cost. Gadgets 360 has reached out to Universal Pictures India for local details and we will update this piece if we hear back. But given that Google Play and iTunes rentals are priced at Rs. 150 usually, we expect the films to be priced between Rs. 450–500.

It’ll be interesting to see how Indian theatres that are still open respond to this move. Though there aren’t many now, that might change by the time Trolls World Tour comes out. At the time of writing, most if not all governments have advised to keep cinemas shut to contain the spread, whole others have ordered to do so. Dates in brackets specify till when.

That includes Karnataka (March 22), Assam and Gujarat (March 29), Kerala and Rajasthan (March 30), Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, parts of Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand (March 31), Arunachal Pradesh (April 5), Jharkhand (April 14), and Sikkim (April 15).

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