More movies are bypassing cinemas and going straight to digital

29 April, 2020 by Don Groves

Pete Davidson in ‘The King of Staten Island’ (Photo credit: Universal Pictures).

The closure of cinemas in Australia, the US and many other markets is resulting in a steady stream of movies going straight to digital platforms.

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Among the latest titles that are bypassing cinemas are Universal’s comedy The King of Staten Island in the US (although its status in Australia is unclear) and, worldwide, Warner Bros’ animated title Scoob! and Paramount’s comedy The Lovebirds.

Meanwhile Universal Pictures’ intention to release films in cinemas and on Premium VOD when cinemas re-open in the US has aroused the ire of AMC Theatres, which operates 1,000 cinemas in the US, Europe and the Middle East.

Touting the success of Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour, which raked in $US95 million in online rentals after bypassing cinemas, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell told the Wall Street Journal: “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats. ”

That prompted an angry riposte from AMC president/CEO Adam Aron, who said: “Going forward, AMC will not license any Universal movies in any of our 1,000 theatres globally on these terms.”

As a hastily-issued clarification, the studio said it expects to release future films directly to cinemas as well as on PVOD “when that distribution outlet makes sense,” restated its belief in the theatrical experience and added it was disappointed with AMC’s response.

In Australia, Universal shifted Trolls World Tour, the musical comedy-adventure which features the voice cast of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden and Ozzy Osbourne, from March 26 to September 17.

Based on the life of Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson and directed by Judd Apatow, The King of Staten Island was slated to hit US cinemas on June 19 but will now go out on VOD on June 12.

Universal was unavailable to comment on the Australian release plans of the comedy which was due to have its world premiere at SXSW followed by the Tribeca Film Festival; both events were cancelled because of the coronavirus lockdown.

‘Scoob!’ (Photo credit: Warner Bros.)

A riff on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon TV series Scooby Doo directed by Tony Cervone, Scoob! was scheduled to open theatrically in the US on May 15 and instead will be available to rent or buy digitally on the same day.

Netflix bought the global streaming rights to The Lovebirds, which stars Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani as a couple who become unintentionally mixed up in a murder mystery, from Paramount. The comedy is directed by Michael Showalter (The Big Sick).

Umbrella Entertainment decided to skip cinemas and go direct to digital with Lorcan Finnegan’s sci-fi mystery Vivarium, which stars Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots as a couple who find themselves trapped in a mysterious labyrinth-like neighbourhood of identical houses; and Ant Timpson’s Come to Daddy, which follows Elijah Wood as a privileged man-child who arrives at the remote coastal cabin of his estranged father, where the shady past of both men catches up with them.

As IF reported, Madman Entertainment is releasing Ben Lawrence’s Hearts and Bones on six digital platforms for downloading at $19.95 from May 6.

In the US, Screen Media Ventures has moved up to May 5 the digital release of Hope Gap after its theatrical window cut short due to the pandemic.

Transmission Films’ Andrew Mackie tells IF he is still aiming for a theatrical release for the William Nicholson-directed romance drama starring Annette Bening, Josh O’ Connor and Bill Nighy, which had been earmarked for April 10.

The distributor plans to bring back to cinemas Peter Cattaneo’s Military Wives, whose run was cut short in March, when business resumes.

In the US the musical dramedy starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan was expected to get a limited theatrical release over Memorial Day weekend via Bleecker Street. Now it will go out on Hulu and VOD platforms on May 22.

The governors in some US states including Texas and Georgia are allowing cinemas to re-open this week but they will have little or no new films to screen.

The major chains are looking at opening their doors mid-summer, given that Christopher Nolan’s Warner Bros film Tenet will be the first large-scale release on July 17.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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