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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

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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