Trolls World Tour will be simultaneously available in movie theaters and VOD. Photo: Universal Studios

Will the entertainment business be forever changed due to coronavirus?

Time will tell if the new release strategies will last, but streaming will probably have a boost that won't be reversed

The coronavirus outbreak will damage all kinds of businesses around the world. That’s a fact well known at this moment, but how will the virus change our culture? It’s hard to know exactly how the situation will be in six months or even a year, but some facts help us to understand how the market begins to accelerate some changes that were in line for a long time, especially in the entertainment industry.

Hollywood stopped. Releases were postponed, some of them for months (Mulan and A Quiet Place) others for years (Fast and Furious 9) and some indefinitely (Black Widow). That’s just the first real hit that movie-theater chains will have. But that won’t stop in 2020. Besides that, almost all big productions in course were interrupted and with that will possibly be postponed, and notice that it is not just about filmmaking. All post production and editing work is non-existent right now. It’s not hard to predict that a lot of movies and series will have their release date modified, bringing a lot of loss to the movie and TV industry as a whole.

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In numbers, Hollywood could lose almost US$ 20 billion due to the outbreak. And that just counts the U.S. domestic industry, the damage for other markets will certainly increase this number. On the other hand, we begin to see a couple of actions that give us a glimpse of what can be our near future – after this crisis, let’s hope. Universal Studios, for instance, announced that a bunch of its theater releases will be available for on-demand rental in platforms like iTunes, Prime Video and on TV services like Comcast – movies like The Hunt, Invisible Man and Emma will be available for $ 20. And let’s not forget: Disney released Star Wars IX and Frozen 2 earlier on Disney+.

The biggest change and perhaps the most important move from Universal is the home/VOD release of Trolls World Tour, the sequel for its big budget animation with names like Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake on the voice cast. The movie will be available in all theaters that are open around the world and at the same time people will be able to watch it in the comfort of their home through the same services that all the other movies were released. So far, that’s the only major release using this strategy but the studio could do the same for all movies scheduled for April, May and June – it all depends on the circumstances the world will be facing with the virus. But here is a fact: VOD is finally a reality for huge studios and soon we can see others joining Universal. 

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And just to be clear, the loss on theater releases is not the only matter that could make Hollywood giants go to streaming once and for all. This week, maybe the hardest in our fight against coronavirus in the Western world, the game platform Steam, from Valve, registered a record number of users: more than 20 million people online, playing games. The reason? Social distancing and quarantine mostly. If we unite all of these movements with the Nielsen research that says that streaming services will grow 60% in the coronavirus period, we see a huge change in our behavior towards digital consumption. 

Old models being questioned

Like I said in the beginning it’s hard to say that changes like that will stick with us, but most certainly they will make the industry question its model and test new kinds of interaction with the user. We definitely live in a time where everything is changing so fast that is hard to follow huge turnovers in business like these, but in a moment like the one we live right now it’s important to take a moment to – wash our hands, stay at home and – see how much we’re changing our habits every day.