The entertainment industry is still trying to figure just what it's doing now that movie theaters are closed, film productions are shut down, and everybody is staying home. For those who aren't working from home, a lot of time is being taken up binge-watching movies or TV, but for those of us used to frequenting movie theaters, things feel a little lost. Luckily, the movie studios do understand the situation and so a number of movies have seen Digital and streaming release dates moved up significantly, so that audiences can potentially enjoy films they loved, or films they missed, while they're waiting for the all clear.
Some movies saw planned Digital release dates moved up, others saw a jump to on demand platforms while the movie was technically still in theaters, a potentially game changing move for the industry as a whole. Here's a look at everything you can watch digitally much earlier than we ever thought possible.
Theatrical Films That Have Already Gone Digital
for years there has been an ongoing debate surrounding the idea of closing the window of theatrical exclusivity and making movies available at home much faster. In the past, theater chains always killed that idea before it went anywhere, but now, with so many people staying home to wait out coronavirus, Universal didn't even wait for theaters to be closed to announce that three of its films, The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma, would be available via on demand platforms beginning, Friday March 20 as 48 hour rentals for a cost of $19.99. What's more Trolls World Tour, which is currently still slated for an April 10 theatrical release, will get a Digital release the same day.
While originally Universal was the only studio who had bit the bullet to move to early Digital release, Sony has now confirmed Vin Diesel's Bloodshot, will be released digitally starting March 24, for the same $19.99 price tag. It will be interesting to see how this goes down. While this is certainly a unique situation, if consumers take advantage of this in large numbers, we might see it continue even after the current crisis is over, and that could change the industry in a permanent way.
Early Digital Releases
Some movies were on their way to Digital/Blu-ray releases already when the coronavirus outbreak hit, and simply decided to push up the normal Digital release so it would get here a little sooner. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, was supposed to arrive yesterday, but it instead hit over the weekend. Just Mercy the legal drama starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx wasn't supposed to hit Digital until March 24, and while you'll still need to wait until then if you want to rent it, the movie was made available for digital purchase as of March 17. Similarly, Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) will be available for digital purchase on March 24. Rentals won't be available until April 7, which is when we were expecting the digital release to drop originally.
Early Streaming Releases
If you're looking for something new to watch on your TV without spending $20 bucks a pop, there's always Disney+. The theatrical side of the studio is struggling, having had to delay the release of both Mulan and Black Widow, but Disney tried to make fans feel a little better by dropping Frozen II on Disney+. The movie came out over this past weekend, only a couple weeks after it had been released on Blu-ray. We weren't expecting Frozen II on Disney+ until the summer. This decision has been met with mixed reactions.
Depending on just how long this social distancing thing lasts, we could see more movies released on digital platforms quickly. Whether it gets people to subscribe to streaming platforms or just buy Digital movies, it could be a way for the studios to make some money now that we won't be spending at the theater anytime soon -- but it would need to be the right types of movies.
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CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis. Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.