Movie theaters in the Auburn-Opelika area have closed, but big-screen films are being rushed to home release to make for in-home movie nights as the population continues to grapple with social distancing amid the spread of the coronavirus.
Major studios have made calls this week to put some of their newest films up for digital rental almost immediately. Universal Pictures has fast-tracked three movies straight from theaters to in-home availability. Disney already made waves dropping the popular “Frozen 2” onto Disney+ early.
The Auburn and Opelika movie theaters are closed. Both are AMC venues, shut down after the company announced Tuesday that it would be closing all its theaters nationwide.
Ticket sales plummeted to their lowest level in at least 20 years last weekend, according to The Associated Press, and the industry is sure to lose an untold amount of money through the pandemic.
But viewers who are confined to their homes in quarantine can now see new movies in a different way as that industry adjusts.
Outside the theater in Opelika there still hangs the poster for the new Vin Diesel action movie “Bloodshot.” Normally, it would take months after a theatrical release for studios to put a movie out on digital rental.
But, even though locals can’t buy a ticket to see that movie in Opelika, they’ll be able to stream it starting Tuesday — just 12 days after its theatrical release.
And three new releases from Universal Pictures are already up for streaming right now. On Friday, the studio fast-tracked digital releases for action thriller “The Hunt,” horror film“The Invisible Man” and Jane Austen adaptation “Emma.”
“The Hunt” stars Betty Gilpin and Hilary Swank and calls for R-rated action with some political satire a la “The Purge” series.
“The Invisible Man” is another R-rated romp rebooting the sci-fi series from the 1930s.
“Emma,” based on the 1815 novel of the same name, is rated PG and stands as the lot’s best option for families.
Universal also is releasing the upcoming family film “Trolls World Tour” on digital release April 10, the same day as what was its scheduled theatrical release date.
“Bloodshot” is rated PG-13 and is a Sony Pictures product based on a comic book of the same name.
Warner Bros. has also announced it is pushing up the digital release of Harley Quinn movie “Birds of Prey” and Michael B. Jordan’s “Just Mercy” by a few weeks, saying that they’ll be available for digital purchase Tuesday.
Normally, those movies would play in theaters for several weekends before being prepared for DVD and digital purchase in the months later.
Disney’s “Frozen 2” wasn’t scheduled to be made available for streaming for another three months before the company surprised fans by giving it to subscribers last Sunday.
New movies surely come as a relief for viewers who have seen other anticipated films delayed or pulled from their release dates.
The new “Fast & Furious” movie was pushed back to 2021 amid the outbreak. Marvel’s “Black Widow” and Disney’s “Mulan” have seen releases postponed indefinitely.
But fast-tracking movies to digital release isn’t an entirely new play for studios trying to make up for box-office losses.
In 2014, the comedy “The Interview,” which lampoons North Korea, was pulled from theaters nationwide amid terrorist threats to attack American theaters that played the movie — so Sony put it up for digital rental and purchase right away instead.
Universal’s new, rushed releases have been made available for 48-hour digital rentals at a $20 price point.