As the coronavirus pandemic continues to shut down theaters and other such health-risky public spaces worldwide, another major film studio is making one of its new releases available via on-demand months ahead of schedule. Following Universal’s announcement Monday that it would make films including The Hunt, The Invisible Man and Emma. available to rent for $19.99 on VOD, Warner Bros. has followed suit: The studio will make Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey available to buy via Amazon, iTunes and the like next Tuesday, March 24, before making it available to rent in April, per Variety. THR reports that STX’s The Gentlemen, directed by Guy Ritchie, will come to VOD on the same date. Both films are still playing in theaters, but as Variety notes, “multiplexes in multiple states, including New York, Colorado, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington, have been ordered to close in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” resulting in this swerve into uncharted territory vis-à-vis the theatrical exclusivity window.
Warner Bros.’ decision comes after Yan tweeted in support of bringing Birds of Prey to VOD on Monday:
The R-rated film has grossed nearly $200 million worldwide against an $84.5 million production budget (not factoring in marketing), making it one of the highest-grossing films of the year so far, but a soft success at best relative to its cost. Of course, theatrical releases in general are cratering right now—last weekend was potentially the worst in box office history. But Warner Bros.’ decision may well result in an increased return for the film, particularly since responsible folks currently practicing social distancing will take all the in-home entertainment they can get right now.