Cinema Comes to On-Demand, Letting Viewers Watch Current Theatrical Releases at Home 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the entertainment industry in profound ways, streaming has quickly become the go-to option for studios to get content to the masses. With many viewers now engaged in practicing social distancing and major theater chains temporarily closing, studios have been teaming up with existing outlets or utilizing their own streaming services in order to make in-theater titles available more quickly for home viewing. Disney+ has already made releases such as “Frozen 2” drop early on its format while Apple and NBCUniversal are also readily making early 2020 films accessible for streaming. On March 24, “Bloodshot,” the Vin Diesel action vehicle that premiered just as lockdowns truly took effect in various states was rushed to Video on-demand availability. 

Amazon’s new “Prime Video Cinema,” already has on its hub films like Disney’s own “Onward,” “The Invisible Man,” and “The Hunt” available for rent or purchase. These films, and other titles like “The Way Back,” “Bloodshot, “Emma.,” and “Birds of Prey,” can only be rented or purchased. Rental selections are only available for rent for 48 hours. Rentals and purchases cost an average of $20, which are around the average price of a single admission ticket at most major theater chains. Considering many potential viewers are locked down or practicing social distancing in diverse ways and places.

Apple TVGoogle Play YouTubeVudu, and Fandango Now are also offering a selection of movies This is the trend across the board on many VOD platforms. Rental options and purchase prices apply to the same titles, and length of availability is also the same all around. After processing a rental you can save the film for 30 days but once you start watching you have 48 hours to enjoy the title. Nothing else has changed in the general format of the outlets, with “Prime Video Cinema” being the rare case of a rapidly assembled new option motivated by the ongoing pandemic’s effects. This is what also announces the new release format as a potential game changer. With cinema chains now closed, watching a theatrical release in a multiplex is not an option, but no longer do viewers have to wait for official post-theatrical VOD or cable releases of new titles. 

What remains to be seen is if studios might eventually begin releasing even bigger blockbusters via streaming if the pandemic-inspired social measures carry on into the early summer. With big films from Disney. Marvel and Warner Bros., like “Mulan,” “Black Widow” and “Wonder Woman 1984,” already pushed back, it looks like certain franchises plan to wait out the crisis. For now movie lovers hunkered down have both new options to watch fresh releases and a new experience of in home-viewing that might have a lasting impact.

The on-demand services that are offering current theatrical releases for rent are Amazon Prime, AppleTV, Altice, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Dish, DirecTV, FandangoNow, Frontier, Google Play, Sony, Verizon, Vudu, and YouTube.