Hollywood goes digital as COVID-19 shuts down theatres

Peter Lennon examines the effects of the global pandemic on the cinema industry

Peter Lennon
24th March 2020
It’s finally here folks! After weeks of speculation, the reaction to COVID-19 has been provoked and the fate of cinema (for the foreseeable future) revealed. In an event that I’m sure surprised none of our readers, all of the major studios have delayed their slates, with A Quiet Place: Part II, Mulan, and Black Widow being the highest profile setbacks.

With that being said, how the studios would respond to the absence of theatrical releases was a constant coin-toss leading up to the shutdown. It has now been revealed that their solution is to release their films on Video-on-Demand and streaming.

Yes, in an unprecedented move, which in many ways began with Disney’s early release of Frozen 2 (2019) onto their streaming service Disney+, studios have begun offering the option to rent films that would be showing in theatres had the coronavirus not shut them down. The initial batch, which were made available to rent, include Emma, The Hunt and The Invisible Man (reviews for all can be read on thecourieronline).

Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow - one of the films delayed by covid-19. Image:IMDB

These offerings are only available for rental due to their overall would-be profit being stumped by the shutdown. The rental price stands at whooping £15.99 for a short forty-eight-hour period after watching has begun. This price point comes across as a bit hefty for the average viewer, particularly one that is alone in their self-isolation.

Other films that had already been nearing the end of their theatrical run, such as Sonic The Hedgehog and Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn), have been pushed forward to meet the sudden demand, with the latter being available to purchase digitally from 24th March in the US.

The decision to move films away from theatres and into the domestic sphere has already sparked much controversy and discussion. Primarily, there have been many concerns that moving films away from theatres may become a trend post-Coronavirus, dismantling an industry that relies on thin profit margins. Others have dismissed these fears due to the overall theatrical experience that can only be replicated by attending cinemas.

The Tyneside Cinema shut down from the 18th March onward. Image:Wikimediacommons

Theatres are already feeling the pressure of having to withdraw from the market and are reaching out to the general public for support. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, Newcastle’s very own Tyneside Cinema. The student-favourite independent cinema has recently reached out during these trying times, stating that donations and the purchasing of vouchers can help it stay afloat.

While everyone is setback during this challenging period, it’s important to look out for the things that we love and the people that make it a reality. So, whether you take advantage of the VOD releases or not, what’s really important is that we look out for the places that ignited our passion for film.

Empire magazine have provided a full list of all the films who have had their UK release date pushed back. Click this link to read the full article.

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AUTHOR: Peter Lennon
English Literature undergraduate. Although I primarily write for the Courier's Film section, I do love helping out in the Televsion and Gaming sections as well. I also organise and host livestreams/radio shows as FilmSoc's inaugural Head of Radio. Twitter: @PeterLennon79

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