With Universal Pictures leading the charge, studios have moved aggressively to shift movies that were in theaters — and a smattering of upcoming releases — to on-demand platforms, serving the audience kept at home amid the coronavirus crisis. So is streaming the new "going to the movies" practise?

So far, the rankings of movie buys and rentals suggest that audiences are flocking to films that otherwise would have taken considerably longer to reach them at home. But are studios making the kind of money that would appreciably offset lost ticket sales?

Scanning the Fandango charts, for example, and you find movies that had their theatrical release cut short on the standings, including "The Invisible Man," "Onward" and "Sonic The Hedgehog." Each of those titles were released in February or March, not long before theaters began closing.

In fact, eight of the top 10 titles on FandangoNow, the video-on-demand service of the online ticket-seller, are films that would've likely still been in theaters if not for the coronavirus shuttering the industry around the world. Still, actual buy rates remain closely guarded information, so it's difficult to know what studios are actually earning and whether it's enough to fuel the practice going forward.

These questions arise at a moment when one of the first movies to bypass theaters entirely, "Trolls World Tour," lands on demand Friday. The Universal title — a sequel to the 2016 animated movie "Trolls" — was scheduled for a wide release, with the original having earned nearly $350 million worldwide.

At this point, studios might be simply making the best of a terrible situation — recouping some of their investment in these films, while in a small way compensating for the abrupt loss of revenue across their businesses.

Comcast (CCZ)-owned Universal is trying to be creative with the marketing around the film, seeking to replicate some of the theatrical experience by making a downloadable "Watch at Home Party Pack" available, including various play-along activities for kids.

.Disney (DIS), for its part, announced that another upcoming kids movie, the live-action "Artemis Fowl," would go directly to its streaming service, Disney+. The film, based on a series of fantasy novels, had been scheduled for a wide release in May.

At the same time, studios have shifted the theatrical release dates on most of their major titles — from "Mulan" to the next "Fast & Furious" sequel — to later this year or 2021, reflecting that they still prioritize the box office, and perhaps more to the point, need that source of revenue to justify producing blockbuster titles.


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