As medical professionals urge social distancing during the global coronavirus pandemic, many movie theaters have temporarily darkened their screens in an effort to prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus.
While many film releases are being pushed back due to the theater closures and regional lockdowns, some studios are taking a different approach, releasing new movies on streaming and on-demand services simultaneously with their theater debuts.
Disney made Frozen II available on their Disney+ streaming services three months ahead of schedule, and also bumped up the streaming and on-demand release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, while Universal Pictures recently announced that several of their new films -- including The Hunt, Invisible Man, Trolls World Tour and more -- will be available for streaming and on-demand viewing sooner than fans expected.
"Universal Pictures has a broad and diverse range of movies with 2020 being no exception. Rather than delaying these films or releasing them into a challenged distribution landscape, we wanted to provide an option for people to view these titles in the home that is both accessible and affordable,” said NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell in a press release. "We hope and believe that people will still go to the movies in theaters where available, but we understand that for people in different areas of the world that is increasingly becoming less possible."
Read on for the up-to-date list of early releases.
Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
Director Cathy Yan took to Twitter to celebrate the early release of her female-fronted DC Comics film, which stars Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ewan McGregor and Ella Jay Basco.
"Thanks to all the fans and supporters out there," Yan wrote. "I’m just happy people will be able to enjoy new and fun movies right now."
Availability: Birds of Prey will be available for digital purchase, via Amazon, iTunes and more, on March 24. The movie will be digitally available on VOD services from cable and satellite providers on April 7.
Director Autumn de Wilde's candy-colored adaptation of Jane Austen's matchmaking comedy -- which stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Bill Nighy, Josh O'Connor and more -- will be available early on-demand after a limited release that began in February.
"I really hope we can all go back to work soon as so many brilliant hard working folk in the industry and outside the entertainment industry can’t survive long without a paycheck. Until then, I hope EMMA. will give you a chance to escape with your imagination and heart while you (please) stay safely indoors," de Wilde shared on Instagram, announcing the film's updated release. "Sending so much love to you and yours. Looking forward to a time when we can rejoice in loving company again. As Jane Austen wrote in Emma: “It’s such a happiness when good people get together.”
Availability: Emma. will be available for a 48-hour rental on "a wide variety of the most popular on-demand services" beginning on March 20.
Disney delivered a blessing to parents and caretakers who are venturing "into the unknown" amid widespread school closings by releasing the Frozen sequel -- starring Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff and more -- three months early on their streaming service.
Availability: Frozen and Frozen II are both streaming now on Disney+.
The previously shelved thriller's bad luck continued with the coronavirus outbreak leading to theater closures, but thanks to Universal's on-demand release plan, fans will finally get to see the Craig Zobel-directed class war thriller, which stars Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Emma Roberts, Ike Barinholtz and more.
Availability: The Hunt will be available for a 48-hour rental on "a wide variety of the most popular on-demand services" beginning on March 20.
The Invisible Man
Practicing social distancing, but still looking for a scare? Director Leigh Whannell's chilling update of the H.G. Wells creation-turned-classic movie monster is also headed to on-demand and streaming. The critically acclaimed thriller stars Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
Availability: Invisible Man will be available for a 48-hour rental on "a wide variety of the most popular on-demand services" beginning on March 20.
Warner Bros. has moved up the digital release date for Just Mercy, the SAG Award-nominated film from Short Term 12 director Destin Daniel Cretton. The film, based on a real-life story, stars Michael B. Jordan as Bryan Stevenson, a defense attorney working to exonerate death row inmate Walter McMillian, played by Jamie Foxx.
Availability: Just Mercy will be available to own from digital retailers beginning on March 17, and be available digitally and on-demand from cable and satellite providers and select gaming consoles beginning on March 24.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
The final film of the Skywalker saga -- starring Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong'o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Ian McDiarmid, and Billy Dee Williams -- hit Disney+ and digital stores a few days early on March 13.
Availability: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is streaming now on Disney+, and available on Amazon, iTunes and more.
Trolls World Tour
The Trolls sequel -- starring Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, Ron Funches, Ozzy Osbourne, Rachel Bloom, Kunal Nayyar and more -- will be released in theaters and homes simultaneously on its planned April release dates.
Availability: Trolls World Tour will be available in theaters and on-demand beginning on April 10 in the U.S.
See more about how Hollywood is responding to coronavirus lockdowns and cancellations in the video below.