NBCUniversal Will Make Its Theatrical Releases Available to Rent During Pandemic

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NBCUniversal’s new movie releases including The Invisible Man, The Hunt, Emma and the upcoming Trolls World Tour will be available to rent at home as soon as Friday, an extraordinary break from normal theatrical window periods that come as the entertainment and film industries brace for the long-lasting effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Films that have already been released in theaters—including The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma—will be available to rent as soon as Friday from on-demand streaming services like iTunes, Amazon Prime Video and FandangoNow for $19.99. The titles will be available to stream for 48 hours following payment.

Trolls World Tour will be available in-home on April 10, the same day it is scheduled to be released in theaters.

Like all major movie distributors, NBCUniveral normally adheres to 90-day grace period between films being released in theaters and their availability via on-demand platforms. (The $19.99 NBCUniversal is charging for its theatrical rentals is usually the standard price to purchase a movie outright once it is available on digital.) Today’s decision comes as a growing number of movie theaters around the country face shutdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Other films, like Disney’s live action Mulan, the latest James Bond installment No Time To Die from MGM, and Eon and NBCUniversal’s own F9, have had their release dates delayed.

“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,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said 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.”

NBCUniversal will “continue to evaluate the environment as conditions evolve and will determine the best distribution strategy in each market when the current unique situation changes,” the company said, indicating that it might not necessarily return to business as usual once the crisis has abated.

The Comcast-owned company’s decision comes after Disney pushed up the availability of its film Frozen 2 on its streaming service Disney+ this past weekend, in a move that the company said was intended to “[surprise] families with some fun and joy during this challenging period.”

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