Due to COVID-19, Universal offers $19.99 iTunes rentals of films still in theaters

NBCUniversal today announced that Universal Pictures will make its movies available as $19.99 iTunes rentals of films still in theaters on the same day as their global theatrical releases, due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

rentals of films still in theaters

Beginning with DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour (opening April 10 in the U.S.) the company will also make movies that are currently in theatrical release available on-demand starting as early as Friday, March 20. Titles from Universal and its specialty label Focus Features, including The Hunt, The Invisible Man and Emma, will be available on a wide variety of the most popular on-demand services for a 48-hour rental period at a suggested retail price of $19.99 in the U.S. and the price equivalent in international markets. The announcement was made by Jeff Shell, CEO, NBCUniversal.

Given the rapidly evolving and unprecedented changes to consumers’ daily lives during this difficult time, the company felt that now was the right time to provide this option in the home as well as in theaters. 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.

“Universal Pictures has a broad and diverse range of movies with 2020 being no exception. Rather than delaying these films or releasing them into a challenged distribution landscape, we wanted to provide an option for people to view these titles in the home that is both accessible and affordable,” said Shell in a statement. “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.”

The Trolls World Tour‘s day-and-date release will be concurrent with Trolls World Tour’s local theatrical release date in each international market where available.

MacDailyNews Take: Rentals of films still in theaters is potentially another nail in to coffin for movie theaters as we could see this temporary release method easily becoming permanent. COVID-19 is going to change the way we do many things; it marks a paradigm shift.


  1. Honestly the best thing about movie theaters today is that you don’t need willpower. I find it hard to sit down and watch a movie and not have a million distractions causing me to hit the pause button until I forget what I was watching.

  2. Took the grandkids to see Onward yesterday. Less than 20 customers at the entire 14 screen theater. Went to first showing hoping it was the cleanest time of day although there were two men who walked from door to door wiping handles when we got there and also as we left.

    Having the shows at home is a plus right now but nothing to the experience of kids watching a huge screen. I got a text while there stating the next day no gathering of over 50 would be allowed.

  3. How generous of the studios to gouge people with $20 rentals right now. It’s perfectly note-sensitive of them as usual. The great thing about getting older is you don’t give a rat’s ass about when something comes out and can catch it later for far cheaper. And do people even talk about new films around the water cooler much more anyway?

  4. Watching a movie in a theatre is a $9.99 experience.

    Watching a movie on a 37 inch 1080p TV is NOT a $19.99 experience, nor even a $9.99 experience. It’s fair to borderline $4.99 purchase.

    In 4 months I’ll be able to purchase the film for $19.99 on iTunes, not rent it four 48 hours. This makes little sense and I do not see consumers doing it. I know I won’t be.

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