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
Share Now on:
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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

Will the federal government extend the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

It’s still unclear. Congress and President Donald Trump are deciding whether to extend the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits workers are getting because of the pandemic. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia believes the program should not be extended, and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the additional money is disincentivizing some workers from returning to their jobs. Democrats want to keep providing the money until January.

As states lift restrictions, are people going back to stores and restaurants?

States have relaxed their restrictions, and many of us have relaxed, too. Some people have started to make exceptions for visiting restaurants, if only for outdoor dining. Some are only going to places they trust are being extra cautious. But no one we’ve talked to has really gone back to normal. People just aren’t quite there yet.

Will surges in COVID-19 cases mean a return to lockdowns?

In many areas where businesses are reopening, cases of COVID-19 are trending upwards, causing some to ask if the lockdowns were lifted too soon, and if residents and businesses might have to go through it all again. So, how likely is another lockdown, of some sort? The answer depends on who you ask. Many local officials are now bullish about keeping businesses open to salvage their economies. Health experts, though, are concerned.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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