The VOD dominoes continue to fall during the coronavirus pandemic. With the world dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, large public gatherings are being officially discouraged by organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, and sitting in a movie theater with dozens of people certainly qualifies as a discouraged activity. The previous weekend’s box office hit a historic low, and movie theaters in both the US and UK have begun closing, whether voluntarily or as a result of official directives from local governments. As a result, yesterday Universal Pictures announced that they would make recent releases that are still technically playing in theaters like The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma. available on VOD, with the upcoming Trolls: World Tour getting a day-and-date simultaneous theatrical and VOD rental release on April 10. And now Warner Bros. will follow suit with Birds of Prey.
The news comes via Variety, who reveal that Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey will hit digital on March 24, with a $19.99 pricetag to purchase, with a rental option to arrive in April. To be clear, this is a little different than what Universal chose to do with its releases, which will be $19.99 for a 48 hour rental. However, it makes sense since Birds of Prey is currently wrapping up its theatrical run, while the others, particularly The Hunt, would technically still be in their box office prime. There’s not only less at stake for Birds of Prey in this case, it will likely help push the movie across some financial milestones that it missed during its primary theatrical run.
Before the announcement was made, Birds of Prey director Cathy Yan tweeted her support of the idea, saying “I would not be opposed to putting Birds of Prey on VOD earlier.”
The R-rated girl gang supervillain movie underperformed at the box office its opening weekend and beyond, despite the star power of Margot Robbie and the dedicated fandom around the Harley Quinn character. Warner Bros. was likely hoping for a Deadpool style February success with Birds of Prey, but the movie’s solid reviews didn’t translate to massive box office dollars. To date the movie has generated $84 million domestic and $199 million worldwide off its reported $85 million budget, and the ongoing pandemic make it unlikely to get far beyond that. Perhaps the movie will find more of its audience while everyone is waiting out the crisis.
While the question of what everyone is going to watch seems like a pretty minor concern these days, the movie corner of the entertainment landscape has been particularly hard hit. With major movies having their release dates delayed or pulled, more studios will have to find ways to generate revenue and put eyes on their product, and the longstanding debate of when studios would finally move to something resembling day and date streaming releases (a move that would obviously be resisted by theater owners) now seems to be a reality. When the pandemic passes, the moviegoing experience is likely to be quite different than what we’ve known in the last few years.