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The Impact of New Release Streaming Rights and Other Industries That are Forever Changed


Courtney Hammel - September 9, 2020 - 0 comments

Walking into the movie theater, smelling the buttered popcorn, and waiting in line to purchase a movie ticket has always been a crowd favorite. There is something about sitting in the dark, cool air eating popcorn, and watching a film on the big screen that is a different experience than sitting in a living room. However, after the Coronavirus struck, movie theaters suddenly became a thing of the past. Movies have been released straight to streaming, and now months into the pandemic, there is no sign of theaters opening any time soon. 

The way we view new movies may be forever changed around the world. 

After the pandemic, will people opt to stay home to watch the movie instead of in the theatre?

New Release Movies Moving to Streaming Services Earlier During Pandemic

On March 17th, 2020 Universal Studios made the move to make select new releases available three months earlier than normal. Warner Bros’ quickly followed suit on March 24th. (The industry normally waits 90 days after it has played in theaters to make the movie available outside the cinema.) In an effort to still allow people to view blockbuster movies during the pandemic, Universal Studios made the movies available to rent online via streaming for a 48-hour period at a price of $19.99. These movies were available on streaming services like GooglePlay, iTunes, FandangoNOW, and Amazon Prime. A few of the first movies that were released early by Universal Studio to these streaming platforms include:

  • The Hunt, released March 13th, made nearly $15 million
  • Emma, released February 28th, made nearly $15 million

Other studios such as Warner Bros’ and Walt Disney are postponing release dates to abide by the 90-day rule. It will be an advantage to the studios to be able to release rights sooner rather than later. This is due to the fact that box office sales are at their peak in the first three weeks of release date.

Will the Industry Be the Same Post-Pandemic?

Universal Studios and AMC theatres have come to an agreement to reduce the window between theatrical release date and streaming service availability to 17 days. That cuts the cinemas exclusive time with the movie to just three weekends. The box office was already expected to take a hit in 2020 after a record-breaking year in 2019, and this announcement comes at a further blow. 

COVID-19 put theatres in even bigger trouble; in mid-March streaming was up 13% and the box office had already seen a 60% drop from last year. In previous years, Universal Studios and 20th Century Fox have considered releasing streaming rights early, but haven’t due to a fear it would deter from the movie-going experience. However, COVID pushed that idea into reality. It is expected that other studios will follow suit to keep up with Universal. 

It is certain that the movie industry will have changed forever due to the pandemic hitting the world, it has fast-tracked the notion of releasing streaming rights faster after the release of the movies on the big screen. Only time will tell how much this will impact theatres around the world. 

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