NBCUniversal announces new movie release plan

As an increasing number of theaters close amid the global COVID-19 outbreak, the media company is making its films available through a day-and-date strategy.
March 17, 2020

Cities around the world are declaring a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and people are being urged to stay home whenever possible. In response, NBCUniversal announced Universal Pictures will make its movies available on-demand on the same day they were scheduled for theatrical release.

The films will be available for a 48-hour rental period from NBCUniversal sister companies Comcast and Sky, as well as from a range of on-demand partners.

NBCUniversal has not yet confirmed whether these movies will also be available through its upcoming streaming service Peacock, which is set to launch in April for Comcast customers, followed by the rest of the US in July. Peacock will host more than 15,000 hours of programming as well as live and on-demand news, sports and reality programming.

DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour will be the first day-and-date release in theaters and homes on April 10 in the US. (The film will be available on-demand in additional territories concurrent with its local theatrical release date in those markets.) Movies that are currently available in theaters will be available on-demand as early as March 20.

NBCUniversal announced it will continue to evaluate this strategy as conditions evolve, and will determine the best distribution strategy for each market accordingly.

“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,” said CEO Jeff Shell in a statement.

Movie theaters in a number of regions, including Italy, France, and some US states have been ordered closed, while major chains like Regal and AMC in the US and Cineplex in Canada have voluntarily shut their doors for the next few weeks. The movie box office had already plunged to its lowest level in more than a decade as the COVID-19 crisis ramped up.

The Walt Disney Company is also altering its streaming strategy, announcing last week that it would make its animated blockbuster Frozen 2 available on its streaming service Disney+ three months early.

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