COVID-19

Universal, banking on home audiences, to stream movie releases

Jasmine Garsd Mar 17, 2020
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Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
COVID-19

Universal, banking on home audiences, to stream movie releases

Jasmine Garsd Mar 17, 2020
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Universal Pictures announced that its cinematic releases will be available to stream at the same time as their theatrical premieres, beginning with “Trolls World Tour” on April 10.

Universal films that are currently showing at theaters, like “Emma” and “The Hunt,” may be available on streaming as early as Friday. This comes at a time in which movie theaters across the United States — and the world — are closing down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Invisible Man” is already in theaters and is one of many Universal titles that will be available on streaming. For about $20, you can watch it at home. But will people pay that much?

“What the studios are banking on is that going to the theater probably costs you three or four times that amount, once you factor in all the stuff you buy at the concession stand, plus the ticket price,” said Mike Hodel, an analyst with Morningstar.

Hodel said some movies are still better left to the big screen — action films like “The Fast and the Furious,” which Universal postponed until next year.

But “Trolls World Tour” could be a good test. It’s aimed at kids who might just be driving parents forced to work at home a little crazy.

“It may be a good strategy for them to just do experimentation and see what works,” said Arun Sharma, professor of marketing at University of Miami. “At the end of this, they may have a sense of what the volume is, is the price point the correct price point?”

He said if “Trolls” is successful in homes, other studios might follow suit.

But what does that mean for the movie theaters? People were already staying home and streaming. Will they want to go back after this?

“They want to be free. They want to socialize,” said analyst David Tarsh, who focuses on travel and leisure. “We are human beings who do not take kindly to being confined.”

At some point, Tarsh said, people will want to head back out, get some popcorn and a really good seat.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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