Blockbuster Movies Likely Won't Debut On Demand During Theater Closures

The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the entertainment industry, especially when it comes to theatrically released films. Over the past few weeks many films have delayed their theatrical release as COVID-19 concerns rose and then, theaters began to closer their doors to help stem the spread of the disease. Since then, a handful of films have rushed up their digital and streaming release dates, including Pixar's Onward which had only opened in theaters on March 6 before things became complicated. The shift to streaming and digital has led many to wonder if studios would start launching some of their major upcoming blockbusters straight to streaming while theaters are shut down. According to the president of the National Association of Theater Owners John Fithian, however, that's not likely to be the case.

Fithian told CNBC on Monday that they do not anticipate any major changes to how movies are released going forward.

"We don't see any other studio doing that with their major titles," Fithian said. "Literally, it's only one movie from one studio where the signal has been in a change in the business model. All of the rest of the movies will come back up this fall and into next year with the same kind of business model we had before the crisis."

That one film Fithian's speaking of is Universal's Trolls World Tour. That film was set to be released simultaneously online and in theaters on April 10, though now that theaters are indefinitely closed as the pandemic continues, that release will just be digital. Other films that have received a digital release well ahead of what they may have received before the pandemic did still open in theaters, such as Onward and The Invisible Man. But films that were expected to do major money at the box office, such as Disney's Mulan and Marvel's Black Widow, they've simply been delayed -- and it seems that Fithian expects that they will still get the full theatrical release once theaters reopen.

Still, while Fithian sounds confident that major films will still debut as they have traditionally, that doesn't mean theaters aren't still hurting as a result of the pandemic. Last week, the National Association of Theater Owners asked the government for relief in the stimulus package that is currently being discussed and debated by Congress.

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"The business model of the movie theater industry is uniquely vulnerable in the present crisis," a statement read. "As we confront this evolving and unprecedented period, we call on Congress and the Administration to ensure that America's movie theater industry and its tens of thousands of employees across the country can remain silent."

What do you think? Will major films go straight to streaming or will they be hitting theaters once the pandemic ends? Let us know in the comments below.

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