Coronavirus might spell doom for theaters, but not just with closures. Disney teased the notion of breaking the theatrical window agreement between theaters and studios by releasing “Frozen II” pretty early on Disney+. However, Universal is the studio that opened the floodgates by announcing VOD releases of “The Invisible Man,” “The Hunt,” and more mere days after they hit theaters. Now, Warner Bros. is following Universal’s lead and releasing “Birds of Prey” way earlier than anticipated on VOD.
According to Deadline, “Birds of Prey,” which hit theaters on February 7, is set to arrive on VOD on Tuesday, March 24, with an expected price of $19.99 on Amazon, iTunes, and more. It’s unclear if this is a purchase price or rental price. But you would have to assume, like Universal, that WB is using the $19.99 price point for a 48-hour rental. Either way, for those that have been waiting to see Harley Quinn and her girl gang, this is a great time to rent the film.
As alluded to, these decisions to release first-run films on VOD just weeks or days after their theatrical releases aren’t just because studios want to eliminate the theatrical window, but instead because of coronavirus leading to most of the theaters in the US being closed for the next couple of months. That being said, giving the general public access to films that have just arrived in theaters not too long ago sets a worrisome precedent.
If these films become huge sellers for studios, what’s to stop them from doing this in the future? We’ve seen this idea floated around quite a bit before, with some folks proposing a rental program for first-run features that allows home viewers the option to spend a larger amount to stream the films in their residence versus going to theaters. Will the general public be okay with this being a temporary measure? Or will this mark the beginning of the end of the exclusive theatrical window?
We’ll have to wait and see.