Universal to offer $20 iTunes rentals of movies still in theaters starting this week

Universal Studios has announced today that it is planning to release movies that are still in theaters on iTunes and other services starting this week. This announcement comes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, with theaters limiting attendance and even shutting down completely.

As reported by Deadline, Universal will offer its current slate of movies in theaters as rentals via iTunes, Amazon, and other digital rental platforms. This includes the movies The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma. Additionally, the Trolls World Tour title was set to be released in theaters on April 10, but Universal now says it will be available to rent on that same day as well.

Universal is setting a suggested price for these rentals at $20. This is quite a bit more than the usual $3.99 rentals we see on iTunes, but for most people, it’s likely much cheaper than going to theaters — especially for groups of more than two people.

In a statement, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said:

NBCUniversal will continue to evaluate the environment as conditions evolve and will determine the best distribution strategy in each market when the current unique situation changes. We hope and believe that people will still go to the movies in theaters where available, but we understand that for people in different areas of the world that is increasingly becoming less possible.

Universal’s decision to make in-theater films available via iTunes and other platforms comes as the coronavirus pandemic causes movie theaters to cap attendance or even shut down. Regal Cinemas, for instance, just announced that it will close all of its 543 locations in the United States for the foreseeable future. AMC will limit attendance to less than 50 people per screening, though some theaters have already been closed by state and local governments.

Universal’s The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma will be available on iTunes, Amazon, and other digital platforms as $20 rentals starting on Friday. What do you think of this strategy? Let us know down in the comments!

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