Antebellum, the time-bending horror thriller starring Janelle Monae, is now skipping theaters in North America and will debut as a Premium Video On Demand (PVOD) release on September 18, it was announced today by Lionsgate.
The movie, which will still open theatrically in “select” international markets, was originally scheduled to come out last April, but was bumped by the initial onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic to August 21 before being taken off the calendar last month.
With COVID-19 still raging unchecked through much of the United States, Lionsgate apparently assumed it was better to get the film out to as wide an audience as possible through PVOD platforms instead of waiting to assess the state of movie theaters this fall.
Written and directed by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, who are making their feature debut after working in advertising for social justice, Antebellum stars Monae as a successful author who “finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality that forces her to confront the past, present and future,” according to an official synopsis.
The story seems to send Monae’s character on a journey into the past, where she finds herself trapped in the American South of the slavery era. Lionsgate may have deduced that the film’s themes and imagery are too timely to wait out any more significant delays as well. The movie also stars Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons, Gabourey Sidibe and others.
Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chairman Joe Drake said, “While the theatrical experience will always be the heart of our business, we are thrilled that we are able to seize the opportunity to match Gerard and Chris’s urgent and immediate film with a release strategy befitting this moment of extraordinary change,” said Drake. “Gerard and Chris are storytellers whose work beats with authenticity – not only will this film entertain and thrill audiences worldwide, but spark a discussion about our current world.”
Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz added, “While we designed Antebellum to be consumed as a communal experience in the theater, we are thrilled by the unique opportunity we have to pivot to a different kind of communal moment in our culture.”
The pair continued, “As we face the realities of systemic racism in our country, which have crescendoed to this current inflection point in 2020, we understand how imperative it is to bring Antebellum to the broadest audience possible, while also prioritizing health and safety. It is our ardent hope that by sharing our film widely, both nationally and internationally, we will transform the moviegoing experience from home into a true event.”
Although Antebellum has flown somewhat under the radar compared to bigger blockbusters like Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984, No Time to Die and Mulan, Lionsgate’s announcement regarding the film is hardly a surprise, given this week’s stunning decision by Disney to make Mulan available as a premium release on its own Disney+ streaming service and earlier PVOD releases by Universal for movies like The King of Staten Island.
It’s still a blow to major theater chains like AMC and Regal, which are planning to reopen later this month but — with the exception of Tenet — are facing a dwindling lineup of new films with which to draw audiences back into seats.