Trade publication Variety reported today that Universal plans to release many of its remaining 2020 theatrical release slate day and date on streaming services in a rental/pay-per-view option, beginning with Trolls World Tour on April 10, with current theatrical releases arriving on streaming services this Friday, March 20, including The Hunt, The Invisible Man, and Emma. Suggested rental pricing for each movie will be $19.99, allowing for a 48-hour one-time viewing window from the time of purchase. This is likely in response to Disney’s announcement of moving up the Disney+ release of Frozen II to today and this past weekend’s early release of Star Wars: The Return of Skywalker to streaming platforms Apple TV, Vudu, FandangoNow, etc.

This is not the first time Universal has toyed around with day and date pay-per-view releasing. Their first attempt was with Pirates of Penzance in 1983, which was met with disastrous results. However, with many movie theaters reducing available seating or closing completely due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, and seeing a major drop in box office over this past weekend with Disney/Pixar’s Onward landing atop the weekend box office with a measly $10 million take, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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Ronald Epstein

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Beat me to the news by 4 minutes. Just read this and it's great news!
 

Wayne_j

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Does this mean that Netflix movies can now get theatrical release in major chains?
 

Josh Steinberg

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They may be the first to make this switch, but I don’t think they’ll be the last.

The movie theater business has been barely clinging to life for some time now, only that’s been obscured from most public view because tentpoles like Star Wars and Avengers bring in so much money.

But it’s essentially become a luxury as opposed to an inexpensive pastime.

Every film being released this year already had to have an answer for this question: “Why should I spend $15-30 a ticket to see a single showing of something I don’t know whether or not I’ll like it, at a time and place of someone else’s choosing, when the same content will be available in my home at a fraction of the price in three months, or for free as part of a subscription I already have in four months?”

I don’t mean to make light of the virus or those whose lives will be disrupted either by illness or economics. But this industry was already in trouble and the current situation is going to force all sides to truly face that and figure out what the way forward is.

In the meantime, as we’re asked to stay at home, any diversion that feels a little bit like normal life and can be used as a distraction or temporary respite from doom and gloom is a good thing. $20 for a rental might seem steep today (and who knows, maybe that pricing will change if we end up having to be out of work and are out of income), but if this continues for a prolonged period, having new content at home will make life a little more bearable.
 

Jake Lipson

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Technically I posted about this in the 2020 box office thread earlier this afternoon before any of you. ;)

I absolutely don't think this has anything to do with Universal's desire to change the theatrical model. It is just a one-time thing in regards to the coronavirus situation.

Whenever the situation with the virus is resolved, Universal will resume theatrical exclusivity. There's a reason they delayed Fast and Furious 9 eleven months rather than include it in this experiment.

We are In unprecedented times so thy are making an unprecedented move, which makes sense to me for the three titles that have already begun their theatrical release period due to the current marketplace conditions. It surprises me for Trolls, which I expected would just move its release entirely as other big yet-to-be-released movies have done.
 
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Sam Favate

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This is a genie that’s not going back in the bottle.

No way box office receipts can match up. They are sure to get less money from VOD. I’d normally take a family of four to the theater, so that $40-$50. If I can do VOD for $20, they’re losing money. (Yes, they’re making up a bit from people who’d buy a single ticket for $10-$12 and now are paying $20, but overall, the math is not in the studios’ favor.)
 

Ronald Epstein

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Thought about this.

The rental price is a price of a regular movie ticket with the large popcorn (nearly)

If you are single, that sucks.

If you are a family, it could actually be a bargain.

This could be the start of something big for on-demand current content and a huge step in the wrong direction for movie theaters.
 

Wayne_j

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Thought about this.

The rental price is a price of a regular movie ticket with the large popcorn (nearly)

If you are single, that sucks.

If you are a family, it could actually be a bargain.

This could be the start of something big for on-demand current content and a huge step in the wrong direction for movie theaters.
In some markets the rental price is less than the price of a regular movie ticket.
 

Ronald Epstein

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In some markets the rental price is less than the price of a regular movie ticket.
Yeah, guess you can tell I rarely if ever, go to the movies.

If you asked me what the price of a movie ticket was I would guess $10 and maybe $13 in NYC.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Jake, I think audiences have been moving away from paying for individual entertainment experiences and shifting en masse from single viewings on someone else’s schedule to flat rate pricing on their own schedule. While studios may not want to be in a day and date world (itself a questionable assertion since they’ve been trying to shrink the window for years), audiences may not want to go back to the way things were. The status quo was already changing before any of this hit.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Yeah, guess you can tell I rarely if ever, go to the movies.

If you asked me what the price of a movie ticket was I would guess $10 and maybe $13 in NYC.
The nationwide average is $10 but you won’t pay that anywhere around NY.

A standard 2D ticket in NYC is about $16 to $18 depending on which chain you go to. An IMAX ticket is about $30. A round trip subway or bus ride in NYC is $6. So, practically speaking, one person going alone to the movies in New York is already on the hook for more than $20.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Wow! $16-$18 a ticket. And I remember when people went crazy when ticket prices hit $10 in NYC.

So, yeah, this on-demand thing is a real bargain.
 

Bryan^H

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I remember reading an article with Steven Spielberg saying that VOD is the future for first run studio features. He thought $50-$75. Well here it is, and cheaper. I know some people that will only watch theatrical movies on the "big screen" deciding later to purchase it on Blu-Ray. But this might be a trend that kills movie theaters, and that is something I absolutely do not want!
 

Josh Steinberg

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At the least, it doesn’t strike me as price gouging.

But it also depends to what degree and how long we’re all shut down for. If it’s a prolonged period of shutdown and if the government doesn’t step in to help with living wages, people may not have $20 to spend for a movie when they have no clue when work will resume or where their next check is coming from.
 

Todd Erwin

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But $20 rentals can F right off.
Yeah, that $20 pricing seems steep compared to what most families are used to for renting. New rentals, like Spies in Disguise are $5.99 on Vudu, and the purchase price is $19.99. I can just see families who pay $19.99 for Trolls World Tour thinking they are purchasing it, and then realize they only paid for ONE viewing.
 

Todd Erwin

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Does this mean that Netflix movies can now get theatrical release in major chains?
For the few theatres that remain open, and with studios delaying many of their big tent pole and event movies, theatre owners just might become desperate enough.