Photo: Esquire Magazine

Since Theatres are Still Closed, Hollywood Is Letting You Watch A Few New Movies At Home

(Updated June 2020)

You still can’t go to the movies. But new movies are going to keep coming to you.

That’s the message from media giant NBCUniversal, whose movie studio is letting customers rent a selection of movies that are supposed to be in theaters now.

The studio will also let customers rent some upcoming movies the day they’re supposed to go into theaters. (NBCUniversal is owned by Comcast, which is an investor in Vox Media.)

Since early May, movie-watchers can rent Scoob!Endings, Beginnings and Just Mercyon a wide variety of the most popular on-demand services” for $20 in the United States and the equivalent of that amount in markets outside the US.

This June 12th, keep your eyes peeled for the Digital Release of Artemis Fowl, and The King of Staten Island starring Pete Davidson.

 

Disney's "Artemis Fowl" Trailer & Poster Released | What's On ...

 

This is both a no-brainer and a big deal.

The no-brainer part is that it has become all but impossible for studios to release their movies in theaters because theaters are still shut down across the world due to the coronavirus pandemic. As of March, theaters were closed nationwide in 32 countries outside the US, including China, France, and Italy; inside the US, various local governments, including those in New York City, Los Angeles, and Ohio, have also ordered theaters to shut down this week.

So the only way for anyone to see new movies — and for studios to make money from them — is to let people watch them at home, via distributors like iTunes or local cable companies.

The big deal part is that some customers and some studios have been asking for this for years — either by allowing so-called “day and date” releases, where you can watch the movie at home the same day it comes out in theaters, or, more modestly, by shortening the “window” between the time movies come out in theaters and the time you can watch them at home.

 

 

 

These options actually exist for some small indie movies — which generally don’t play in theaters owned by big chains — but that’s about it. Up until now, the big theater chains, like AMC, have hated the idea — because, obviously, if people watch at home they won’t spend their money at big theater chains — and they’ve been able to force Hollywood to play along.

In 2011, for instance, Universal announced plans to let people rent Tower Heist (it stars Eddie Murphy, and I’ve never seen it either) for $60 (!). A week later, the studio abandoned the plan after theater chains threatened a boycott.

We’ll see where this one goes. Right now, the big movie studios, including Universal, have been responding to the coronavirus threat by postponing their biggest spring movie launches, including Universal’s latest Fast & Furious sequel.

And it’s notable that the press release announcing the new rental program today said nothing about Fast 9, which was supposed to arrive in theaters May 22 but is now supposed to come out in April 2021.

And this morning, analyst Rich Greenfield sent out a note arguing that it simply wasn’t possible for studios to come close to recouping the money they’d lose by skipping theaters, which is why they’re all hoping — so far — they can keep their biggest movies in a vault for now and then bring them to theaters this fall or next year.

 

From 'Bond' to 'Mulan': Film Releases Delayed Due to Coronavirus ...

 

“We would love to be able to tell you that for $30 to $40 you could watch Mulan or No Time to Die tonight in the comfort of your own home, while you are socially distancing yourself from other humans,” Greenfield wrote. “However, when you look at the difficulty in replacing the planned profits studios expected to make with a fiduciary duty to talent using contracts that never anticipated a direct-to-consumer release strategy, we believe it is essentially impossible for studios to do anything beyond delay major movies until theaters reopen and life returns to normal.”

One middle-ground option: Disney, which released Frozen 2 in theaters last year, moved up the release of that movie on its own Disney+ service by three months and started streaming the movie for its subscribers last week.

Given that other big studios like Universal and Warner Bros. are owned by conglomerates that plan to launch streaming services of their own, we may see more of that.

 

 

1. Just Mercy

Original Release Date: January 10

Digital Release Date: March 24

Our Winter issue cover star led off the year with Just Mercy, which tells the true story of rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson. It includes one of his first, and most important cases—representing Walter McMillian, who was sentenced to die for the murder of an 18-year-old girl.

 

 

2. The King of Staten Island

Original Release Date: June 19

Digital Release Date: June 12

Pete Davidson picked a pretty tough year to become a movie star. He starred in Big Time Adolescencewhich was rushed to digital in March, and now his second big movie of 2020, in which he plays a familiar-sounding tatted up New York burnoutis skipping a theatrical release altogether.

 

 

3. Artemis Fowl

Original Release Date: May 29

Digital Release Date: June 12

This adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s bestselling kiddie fantasy series was scheduled to have a theatrical run this spring, but is now headed directly to Disney+ in June.

 

 

4. Scoob!

Original Release Date: May 15

Digital Release Date: May 15

After Trolls World Tour broke records with its digital debut thanks to the fact that every grade schooler in America is stuck at home and permitted ever-increasing amounts of screen time, it was announced that this kids movie will skip its theatrical release and head directly to on-demand.

 

 

5. Capone

Original Release Date: May 12

Digital Release Date: May 12

Tom Hardy plays notorious gangster Al Capone in his later years, which found him suffering from syphilis-induced dementia, in this film headed straight to home streaming.

 

 

6. How to Build a Girl

Booksmart’s Beanie Feldstein stars in this adaptation of Caitlin Moran’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel about a teenage music critic.

 

 

7. Endings, Beginnings

Original Release Date: May 1

Digital Release Date: May 1

This Shailene Woodley, Sebastian Stan, and Jamie Dornan-starring romance skipped theaters and headed directly to digital streaming.

 

 

8. Fantasy Island

Original Release Date: February 14

Digital Release Date: April 14

Who would have thought at the beginning of the year that one of the least-strange things about 2020 would be this horror reimagining of a campy ’70s drama.

 

 

9. Trolls World Tour

Original Release Date: April 10

Digital Release Date: April 10

This kiddie jukebox musical is the sequel to 2016’s Trolls, and features the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Cordon, Mary J. Blige, and more. It will now be available on digital on the same day as its planned theatrical release.

 

 

10. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Original Release Date: March 13

Digital Release Date: April 3

This acclaimed indie picked up awards at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals, and the teen abortion drama will now be available for digital rental just a few weeks after its theatrical debut.

 

 

11. Onward

Original Release Date: March 6

Digital Release Date: Available On Demand March 20, and streaming on Disney+ April 3

Pixar’s latest, which features the voices of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt and tells the fantasy world-set story of a pair of elf brothers on a journey to bring their father back from the dead, has had its On Demand release date fast-tracked.

 

 

12. The Lovebirds

Original Release Date: In theaters April 3

Digital Release Date: On Netflix April 3

Paramount’s Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani action comedy was slated to premier in theaters early next month, but now will head directly to Netflix. It’s the first movie to forego a theatrical release due to the pandemic.

 

 

13. Bad Boys For Life

Original Release Date: January 17

Digital Release Date: March 31

The third movie in Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s Bad Boys series finds the crime-fighters taking on a Miami cartel, all while showing a cadre of younger cops just how it’s done.

 

 

14. Sonic the Hedgehog

Original Release Date: February 14

Digital Release Date: March 31

First Sonic’s release was pushed back, thanks to a hasty redesign after the internet reacted strongly to the idea of a hedgehog with human teeth. Now, its digital release is being moved forward, making the movie available at home just six weeks after its theatrical release.

 

 

15. The Call of the Wild

Original Release Date: February 21

Digital Release Date: March 27

This adaptation of Jack London’s classic 1903 adventure novel stars Harrison Ford and one eerie CGI dog—and it’s now available for home viewing way ahead of schedule.

 

 

16. Downhill

Original Release Date: February 14

Digital Release Date: March 27

Downhill is a remake of the acclaimed 2014 Swedish film Force Majeure, and stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell as a married couple forced to reassess their lives after a close call with a controlled avalanche during a family ski trip.

 

 

17. Resistance

Original Release Date: March 27

Digital Release Date: March 27

Before Marcel Marceau was a world-renowned mime, he was a young Jewish member of the French Resistance who lost his father to horrors of Auschwitz. Jesse Eisenberg plays the actor during the war, as he worked to save the lives of children orphaned by the Nazis. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Resistance skipped theaters and debuted digitally.

 

 

18. The Gentleman

Original Release Date: January 24

Digital Release Date: March 24

Director Guy Ritchie returned to his crime comedy roots with his latest film, which stars Matthew McConaughey as an American kingpin operating in the UK whose efforts to sell his marijuana empire become ensnared in a web of blackmail. Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Colin Farrell, and Hugh Grant also star.

 

 

19. Birds of Prey

Original Release Date: February 7

Digital Release Date: March 24

It’s hard to imagine that anything was salvageable from the disaster that was Suicide Squad, but Birds of Preyfinds Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn newly single and ready to fly solo—until she teams up with a bunch of other renegade ladies to save an adorable tween from a crime lord’s clutches.

 

 

20. The Way Back

Original Release Date: March 6

Digital Release Date: Available On Demand March 24

This sports drama stars Ben Affleck as a construction worker who becomes a high school basketball coach while struggling with alcoholism. It earned critical praise, and will be available online just weeks after its theatrical debut.

 

 

21. Bloodshot

Original Release Date: March 13

Digital Release Date: Available On Demand March 24

This Vin Diesel action vehicle is based on the titular Valiant Comics superhero, a Marine who dies in combat only to be resurrected (with superpowers, of course).

 

 

22. Big Time Adolescence

Original Release Date: January 28

Digital Release Date: March 20

Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson stars in this coming of age film as a charming mid-twenties slacker (shocking!) who good-naturedly encourages his ex-girlfriend’s teenage brother to make a series of truly awful decisions.

 

 

23. The Hunt

Original Release Date: March 13

Digital Release Date: March 20

This satirical horror film already had its original September release delayed after its premise—a cabal of champagne-swilling liberal elites kidnap a bunch of working-class red staters and hunt them for sport—sparked controversy.

 

 

24. The Invisible Man

Original Release Date: February 28

Digital Release Date: March 20

This critically-acclaimed sci-fi horror film is the latest take on H.G. Wells’ classic story, and finds The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Elisabeth Moss starring as a woman who suspects she’s being stalked by her wealthy abusive ex-boyfriend—even though he’s supposed to be dead.

 

 

25. Emma

Original Release Date: February 21

Digital Release Date: March 20

This latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel hit theaters only a few weeks before the COVID-19 shutdowns began, and its VOD release date was quickly moved forward.

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