NBCUniversal has announced its current movies from the Universal Pictures stable — including the upcoming event family movie Trolls World Tour — will be made available on-demand at the same time they hit those theaters that remain open during the coronavirus pandemic.
The broad policy collapses the traditional theatrical window as the film industry grapples with unprecedented circumstances. Cinemas are entirely closed in 32 or more markets overseas and partially closed in another 15 territories, while more countries expected to follow suit. Most, if not all, cinemas are likely to go dark this week in the U.S., after theaters have already been ordered to go dark in New York City and Los Angeles. Other locales are also seeing closures, while circuits staying open are starting to limit capacity to 50 people per auditorium per new CDC guidelines.
In addition to DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour, set to open in theaters April 10 in North America, NBCUniversal will also make movies that are currently in theatrical release available on-demand starting as early as Friday.
Those titles include Universal’s The Hunt and The Invisible Man, as well as Focus Features’ Emma.
For years, studios and theater owners have battled over the traditional theatrical window, which currently rests at roughly three months. Many studios, including Universal, have wanted to experiment with premium VOD, but cinema owners have balked and said they wouldn’t play any movie that opened day-and-date.