Universal to Make Theatrical Movie Releases Available as $20 Digital Rentals on Same Day

Universal Pictures is set to make new movies on global theatrical release concurrently available for rental via iTunes, Amazon, and other digital platforms, NBCUniversal has announced (via Deadline).

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New releases including The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma will be available to watch online as soon as this Friday, March 20, with each movie offered as a 48-hour on-demand rental for the suggested price of $19.99 in the U.S., and equivalent prices in international markets.

In addition, DreamWorks Animation's Trolls World Tour, which is scheduled for cinematic release on April 10 in the U.S., is set to become available domestically in theaters and on demand on the same day.

The announcement followed a historically poor weekend at the box office, as measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic saw theaters close and consumers prepare for a collective shut-in at home.

"Universal Pictures has a broad and diverse range of movies with 2020 being no exception. 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," said Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, in a statement. "We hope and believe that people will still go to the movies in theaters where available, but we understand that for people in different areas of the world that is increasingly becoming less possible."

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the move doesn't apply to the studio's entire 2020 calendar, and decisions regarding other titles and the duration of the policy have yet to be made.

Several films, including the next James Bond installment No Time to Die and the ninth Fast & Furious movie, have already been delayed because of the virus. Apple has also suspended all active filming on Apple TV+ projects from outside studios, temporarily pausing work on "The Morning Show," "Foundation," "See," "Lisey's Story," "Servant," and "For All Mankind."

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Top Rated Comments

zhenya Avatar
55 months ago

This is nice, but $20 when it would have cost $12 to see it on the big screen? Universal needs customers during this theatre shutdown, but they are charging a premium to rent movies? Normally it would cost $20 to purchase the movie (which isn’t normally released this soon on iTunes). Not following that.
The reasonable assumption is that most of these will be viewed by at least a couple, if not a family or group of friends.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Michael Clarke Avatar
55 months ago
...and on various file sharing sites shortly after.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
44267547 Avatar
55 months ago
Personally, I welcome this, as movie theaters obviously will probably never be the same moving forward, and this gives a luxury for those who want to pay a premium to view the film in their privacy of their own home given the circumstances. It saves me (And plenty of others) the time and distraction of having to deal with those who are not courteous of others when viewing movies in theaters.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rbailerum1 Avatar
55 months ago
This is nice, but $20 when it would have cost $12 to see it on the big screen? Universal needs customers during this theatre shutdown, but they are charging a premium to rent movies? Normally it would cost $20 to purchase the movie (which isn’t normally released this soon on iTunes). Not following that.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ruka.snow Avatar
55 months ago
21st century movie releases.... Its like the future is finally here.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Wanted797 Avatar
55 months ago
I’ve been wondering why this wasn’t a thing for years. It will surely combat piracy a lot.

I think they’re about to open up a whole new business model. Movie theatres are likely to go the way of blockbuster.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)