COVID-19 has arrived and is currently wreaking havoc across the globe. Travel is restricted, businesses and schools in many cities have closed indefinitely, events and public gatherings have all been put on ice, and the president declared a national state of emergency. Sports are pretty much canceled for who knows how long, and movies have taken a huge hit and Hollywood is set to lose billions of dollars. Streaming movies may be their only way to make any of it back.
Box office revenue for March 13-15 was the lowest number in 22 years. This past weekend the total haul was zero. Most major studio tentpoles have been pulled from release. The new James Bond movie, No Time to Die was pushed to November; Fast and Furious 9 was bumped back almost a year. Theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and other cities have closed entirely, while AMC has limited theatrical capacity to only 50 people to give moviegoers space. Even major film festivals, like Cannes, have been canceled or postponed.
While some movies have been moved to new release windows already, even more remain in limbo, with releases on hold as distributors and theaters wait to see what happens. If you look at the upcoming schedule, it’s started to resemble a barren post-apocalyptic wasteland.
But out of that wasteland emerges a new battleground for studios to duke it out on, Video on Demand and streaming. In response to this titanic shift, some studios plan to release theatrical movie titles on VOD platforms and streaming services.
There are essentially two different approaches to this. One basically involves moving up the streaming release date for movies that have already finished their theatrical runs. The other is pivoting movies that are still in theaters to digital platforms now that only 20% of U.S. theaters remain open. And to be honest, that number is probably going to continue to dwindle, even as China begins to reopen its theaters.
As far as for upcoming movies, most major releases are stuck in purgatory. Studios obviously prefer a major theatrical release to streaming movies now. So, for the time being anyway, they appear to be holding out in the hope of being able to reschedule.
With that in mind, we thought we would look at the major movies coming to streaming and VOD services over the next few months. Since this is a fluid situation, one that changes by the day, so this list is sure to continue to evolve. Be sure to check back to see the latest additions.
This list focuses primarily on bigger, more high-profile movies, though there is still a steady stream of smaller releases landing on VOD and streaming outlets. These tend to be indie and genre films, ones that already planned to take this route to distribution. Maybe some had small theatrical runs planned, but digital was always going to be their delivery method. Check these out, too, if you have the chance, especially as film festivals, often the primary outlet for these movies to gain exposure, have also started shutting down.
And one additional fun tidbit, drive-in movie theaters have seen a bit of a resurgence in the time of COVID-19. Due to their set up, you can still see a movie while keeping a safe distance between audience members. There are only a few hundred still in operation in the U.S., and weather dictates that many are purely seasonal, but they offer a fun, unique alternative to theaters or streaming.
Just a note, some of these movies will drop on subscription-based streaming services. Others will be available to rent. Still more, especially the bigger names, will be purchase only at first. Again, this is an evolving topic, but we’ll try to keep the information as up-to-date as possible.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | Available Streaming
It’s been a few months since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker wrapped up the core saga in that far, far away galaxy, and it was already close to receiving a home video release. Still, in light of current events, the studio opted to speed things up and dropped the movie on streaming a bit earlier than originally planned. And now while you self-quarantine, you can marathon all nine Episodes from the comfort of your own couch.
Frozen II | Already Available
Another Disney property arriving a bit earlier than expected, Frozen 2 dropped on Blu-ray and digital in late February. Still, the Mouse House wanted to provide families with “some fun and joy during this challenging period,” and released it on Disney +, their streaming service a few months ahead of schedule. So, the continuing adventures of Anna, Elsa, Olaf, and Sven are ready and available if you need an escape or to distract the kiddos for a few hours.
Big Time Adolescence | Movie Streaming Now
The Pete Davidson-starring Big Time Adolescence won praise at Sundance earlier this year. (Remember when film festivals were a thing that existed?) It was set for a limited theatrical run followed a week later by a debut on Hulu. With the state of movie theaters being what it is, they dropped the comedic drama on the streaming service a week early and you can now watch the tale of a suburban teenager and his older, college-dropout best friend.
Onward | Streaming Now
Pixar’s latest animated adventure, Onward, was, admittedly, not my favorite. (Though plenty of other folks enjoyed it.) The tale of two elf brothers searching for magic in a mundane world just hit in theaters in early March. It didn’t do particularly well at the box office, but Disney, who owns the animation studio, hopes it will find new life on streaming. To that end, they released it for digital purchase on March 20 and plan to add it to their Disney+ lineup starting April 3.
The Invisible Man | Movie Available Now
Another recent theatrical release, Blumhouse/Universal’s reboot of The Invisible Man is one of the best movies of 2020, horror or otherwise. Tense and briskly paced, and featuring a fantastic performance from Elisabeth Moss, it already clocked more than $120 million at the box office, against a $7 million price tag. Just a few weeks after it was released, the studio is now dropping director Leigh Whannell’s film for rental on the streaming movie market. It’s definitely one to check out if you missed the theatrical run.
The Hunt | Available Now
Few recent movies have stirred up as much controversy as The Hunt. Originally set for release in September 2019, the latest interpretation of “The Most Dangerous Game,” humans-hunting-humans-for-sport story, was delayed in the wake of protests. It finally saw a theatrical release on Friday, March 13, just as movie houses began to shutter. As a result, Craig Zobel’s film now lands on streaming movies barely a week after it debuted on the big screen. It’s now available to rent.
Emma | Movie Streaming Now
A Jane Austen adaptation was probably never destined to be a major blockbuster but Focus Features (owned by Universal) hoped to have a prestige pick on their resume with the latest adaptation of Emma. It received a limited theatrical run beginning in late February, but the Anya Taylor-Joy-starring period piece joined its compatriots on the streaming movie rental scene on March 20. To be fair, this is probably where the film was always likely to gain the most traction and find its audience.
Bloodshot | Streaming 3/24
Another movie released on March 13 and set to make a hasty beeline to digital platforms is Vin Diesel’s antihero super-soldier actioner Bloodshot. It will be available for digital purchase less than two weeks after opening in theaters. So, if you have a hankering to see the beefy superstar play a re-animated soldier bent on revenge, you’ll have the chance to enjoy this from your own living room sooner rather than later.
The Way Back | Movie Available 3/24
We could all use some uplifting, inspirational sports stories right about now, especially since there are no sports to watch. (Unless you count ESPN’s replays of Dodge Juggle.) With Ben Affleck’s The Way Back, about an alcoholic high school basketball coach searching for redemption, we have just that. Another movie only came out in theaters a few weeks ago, Warner Bros. announced they plan to release the Gavin O’Connor-directed drama on streaming.
The Gentlemen | Streaming 3/24
Earlier this year, Guy Ritchie returned to his slick, fast-talking, action-comedy crime caper roots with The Gentlemen. Releasing in January, its theatrical window was more or less closed, but given present circumstances, the studio bumped up the home release hoping the film finds a wider audience. Now it hits digital movie outlets a scant two months after it opened in theaters.
Just Mercy | Available 3/24
Warner Bros. originally released Just Mercy at the tail-end of 2019 hoping to gain some award-season traction. Starring Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan, the real-life story of a civil rights defense attorney working with wrongly convicted death row inmates failed to gain much traction critically or popularly. (It’s good, but in all the expected ways, though it features a heart-breaking supporting performance from Rob Morgan.) This is another case of the studio significantly pushing up the streaming movie release.
Birds of Prey | Movie Streaming 3/24
Birds of Prey may have underperformed in theaters, but it’s still a lot of fun. Come on, there’s a hyena and a high-speed roller skate chase. If you missed it on the big screen, you’ll soon have the opportunity to check out Cathy Yan’s Harley Quinn-led superhero team-up. Warner Bros. will release the film for purchase starting on March 24, while it will be available to rent a few weeks later on April 7.
Trolls World Tour | Direct To Streaming 4/10
It may sound odd, but one of the biggest deals of this pivot to VOD might be the case of Trolls World Tour. Most of these other films got at least some time in the theater, even if only a weekend. For the Trolls sequel, however, the studio decided to forgo the theatrical experience altogether. Originally scheduled for April 10, the animated family film will instead land exclusively on VOD that day. This is the first major studio movie release to take this streaming route and it could represent a big shift in the way the industry operates. This could represent a step into shrinking the traditional theatrical release window.
Sonic the Hedgehog | Available 3/31
Despite delays over the fan outcry about the title character’s appearance, Sonic the Hedgehog wound up a modest hit for Paramount. Now, much like the speedy blue hero, the studio is rushing the movie to streaming. It will land on March 31, just 46 days after opening in theaters. Fans will be able to purchase the film, though it will be available to rent or on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD a while later, on May 19.
The Lovebirds | Streaming 4/3
The Lovebirds, the upcoming romantic action crime comedy starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, was originally scheduled to come out in theaters April. Along with many others, Paramount pulled the film from the calendar. But now Netflix jumped in and will release the movie that reunites Nanjiani with his Big Sick director, Michael Showalter. They’re even sticking with the initial April 3 debut date for its streaming debut.
Extraction | Movie Streaming 4/24
Just because Joe Russo has moved on from the MCU, doesn’t mean he’s done working with the likes of Chris Hemsworth. The brawny actor stars in Extraction, penned by Russo and directed by Sam Hargrave, a stuntman making his feature directorial debut. Described as a violent, gritty action-thriller, the film follows a black-ops mercenary hired to retrieve the kidnapped son of a crime boss. Netflix unleashes Hemsworth and company streaming April 24.
Survive The Night | Available Streaming 5/22
Bruce Willis is set to star in the home invasion thriller Survive the Night. In it he plays a retired sheriff and father to a doctor, whose home is invaded when criminals want his son to operate on one of their number. As you can imagine, Bruce Willis decides to take control of the situation. Here’s the first trailer…
While the trailer optimistically predicts it’ll be in select theaters and available on demand, it’s safe to assume that the Coronavirus will still have everything shut down and it’ll be only on demand. That’s great news though, because by then we’ll all be starving to death for new streaming content. Enter Bruce Willis and Survive the Night.
Wonder Woman 1984?
Okay, don’t freak out, this probably won’t happen. It’s just a rumor. Wonder Woman not only made north of $800 million in theaters, it features one of the most popular, recognizable superheroes of all time. As a result, Wonder Woman 1984 is a big deal. You can bet DC and Warner Bros. want to give this as big a release as possible.
That said, they’ve at least considered alternative measures. WW84 is still officially set to hit theaters in a prime summer slot on June 3. However, according to The Wrap, executives have discussed a streaming movie release, possibly in conjunction with the upcoming arrival of subscription service HBO Max. Again, this seems unlikely, but this is also an unprecedented situation. It looks like studio executives have at least thought about the possibility this might go on for a while and are investigating all the potential avenues for getting their movies in front of eyeballs.
These are just the big movies landing on streaming that we know of right now, but there are sure to be many more. A handful of delayed movies, like F9 and Die Another Day, have been rescheduled. However, studios have simply pulled many more from the release calendar.
Highly anticipated movies like Mulan, Black Widow, A Quiet Place 2, and more have been postponed, though they remain in limbo, with no specific release date. Additionally, a number of major productions have also shut down for the time being. The Batman, the Avatar sequels, Jurassic World: Dominion, and many, many more movies have halted filming amid safety and health concerns.