Movies’ Rush to Video Creates Crowd of Blockbusters Online

(Bloomberg) -- With coronavirus shutting down movie theaters in the U.S., films that should still be playing on the big screen are dominating most-downloaded lists.

Over the weekend, Universal Pictures’ “The Invisible Man” and Walt Disney Co.’s “Onward” were the two most popular movies to buy or rent on FandangoNow, an online service. Both were supposed to be exclusively in theaters for the next several weeks, but those plans were upended when most of the 40,000 U.S. theaters closed due to the outbreak.

Studios are hoping to recoup some of the lost business by giving viewers quarantined in their homes an early opportunity to watch new films. That means practically every first-run movie, including “Birds of Prey,” from AT&T Inc.’s Warner Bros. and Sony Corp.’s “Bad Boys for Life,” will be accessible to everyone with a TV, internet connection and $20.

“As fans continue to look for new content to watch at home, FandangoNow has experienced its biggest weekend ever,” said Cameron Douglas, who oversees the service. “We expect to see another big week ahead.”

Position on

FandangoNow

FilmDistributor
1“Invisible Man”Universal
2“Onward”Disney
3“Jumanji: The Next Level”Sony
4“The Hunt”Universal
5“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”Disney
6“Emma”Universal
7“1917”Universal
8“Spies in Disguise”Disney
9“Knives Out”Lions Gate
10“Just Mercy”Warner Bros.

But rentals are unlikely to make up for what filmmakers and distributors lose from the shuttered theaters. Some studios opted to delay major films scheduled to premiere in March, April or May, rather than make them available at home early. The box office is still the biggest source of revenue for new films, even though half of ticket sales go to theaters.

Universal made three new movies available on demand Friday, including “Invisible Man,” “The Hunt” and “Emma.” All were among the 10 most popular digital downloads on FandangoNow, the service said Monday, without giving exact figures. Fandango is owned by Comcast Corp., which also owns Universal.

Some older favorites could see a sales boost from quarantined fans. Disney’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” was the fifth most popular film on FandangoNOW over the weekend. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.’s “Knives Out,” which premiered in November, was also in the top 10.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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