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Warner Bros. and STX are following the lead of other entertainment companies and releasing select titles to home entertainment early amid the coronavirus crisis.
Warner Bros.’ Birds of Prey and Michael B. Jordan-starrer Just Mercy, as well as STX’s The Gentlemen will be available for purchase on March 24, a few weeks earlier than a typical VOD release. At the earliest, films tend to become available to buy digitally (electronic sell through) about 74 days after they first arrive in theaters, followed by digital rental and the regular home entertainment window two weeks later, at 88 days.
Consumers will be able to purchase Birds of Prey digitally 46 days after its initial theatrical release, while The Gentlemen will be made available to buy 60 days after it first hit theaters. (Birds of Prey opened in U.S. theaters on Feb. 7, and The Gentlemen on Jan. 24.)
The decision follows Birds of Prey director Cathy Yan’s tweet about a decision by NBCUniversal on Monday to put its current slate of films on demand at the same time those films arrive in theaters not shut down by coronavirus. “I would not be opposed to putting Birds of Prey on VOD earlier,” she tweeted. The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Warner Bros. and STX for comment on the release date changes.
The move by Warner Bros. and STX isn’t as dramatic a move as Universal’s, but it underscores quickly changing times.
Studios are expediting films’ journeys to home entertainment platforms as they attempt to recoup profits while cinemas are shut down in major cities across the U.S. Most theaters nationwide, if not all, are expected to shutter this week. Cinemas are also closed in 32 or more markets and in another 15 territories overseas, and more countries are expected to order cinema closures soon.
In addition to NBCUniversal, whose titles Trolls World Tour, The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma will all be available to rent early, The Walt Disney Company announced on Friday that it would make Frozen 2 available three months early on Disney+. “Frozen 2 has captivated audiences around the world through its powerful themes of perseverance and the importance of family, messages that are incredibly relevant during this time, and we are pleased to be able to share this heartwarming story early with our Disney+ subscribers to enjoy at home on any device,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in a statement.
The coronavirus outbreak, which has killed 68 in the U.S. so far, led President Donald Trump on Monday to release a set of safety guidelines. Included were recommendations that individuals avoid groups of more than 10 people, as well as restaurants, bars and nonessential travel.
March 17, 2:20 p.m. Updated with Warner Bros. Just Mercy release.
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