The Lovebirds is officially heading to Netflix on May 22, making the comedy the third major film to head directly to a subscription streaming service after its theatrical release was postponed as a result of the novel coronavirus.
The movie, from Paramount Pictures and MRC, follows a couple (The Big Sick’s Kumail Nanjiani and Insecure’s Issa Rae) that unintentionally becomes entangled in a murder mystery and must clear their names. It was slated to open on April 3 before movie theaters around the country closed down indefinitely in March amid the pandemic. Netflix was reported to have picked up the rights to the film in mid-March, but the move wasn’t officially announced until this morning.
With continued uncertainty about when theaters will be able to reopen and when people will again feel comfortable spending time in crowded public space, several movie studios are skipping the theatrical release and making some films available directly on streaming services.
Earlier this month, Amazon Prime Video bought the rights to the comedy action film My Spy for a premiere later this year; Disney moved its upcoming film Artemis Fowl, which had been slated for a May 29 theatrical debut, directly to its streaming service Disney+ beginning June 12.
In addition to the subscription side, distributors are also opting to move films to transactional video-on-demand platforms, where customers can digitally rent or buy films to stream, often much sooner than the traditional 90-day window. Most films that were released prior to the pandemic, including Warner Bros.’ Birds of Prey, several Universal Pictures titles including The Invisible Man and Disney’s animated film Onward have been made available to rent or buy on services like iTunes, Fandango Now and Vudu.
Anticipated blockbusters, though, haven’t been moved over to streaming. Instead, distributors have opted to delay theatrical releases until theaters are back up and running. The ninth installment of the Fast and Furious franchise and the live-action adaptation of Disney’s Mulan are just a few major titles that will premiere in theaters up to a year later than planned.