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Universal Becomes First Studio to Offer First Run Films in the Home

Miss The Hunt in theaters? It’s coming to streaming very soon.
Miss The Hunt in theaters? It’s coming to streaming very soon.
Photo: Universal Pictures

With movie theaters across the world closing, Universal Pictures has become the first studio to embrace a whole new mode of distribution.


The company just announced that starting Friday, March 20, current theatrical films like The Hunt, The Invisible Man, and Emma “will be available on a wide variety of the most popular on-demand services for a 48-hour rental period at a suggested retail price of $19.99 in the U.S. and the price equivalent in international markets.” The release of Trolls World Tour on April 10 will happen both in theaters (if they’re open) and also online.

“Universal Pictures has a broad and diverse range of movies with 2020 being no exception. 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,” said Jeff Shell, the CEO of NBCUniversal in a press release. “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.”


Unfortunately, this news does not seem to apply to another upcoming Universal release, F9, which was delayed a year. A source close to the situation tells io9 that this isn’t necessarily a blanket policy moving forward, but merely a reaction to the current news and way to allow people to see the films. There are no set plans on which titles it’ll apply too, how long the windows will be, or anything. This is merely the first step.

This comes after several other studios, such as Disney, indefinitely delayed their theatrical releases, seemingly trying to preserve the theatrical experience. But, with the length of theater closings and self-quarantines seemingly rising by the hour, this could be the beginning of a whole new way to watch new movies.

For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.


Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo

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$19.99 is too high. At least in my area. They need to charge what the normal price of admission is. For me that would be under $10 at the theater I normally go to.