This year affected all industries, but perhaps no industry was more greatly affected than the movie industry. Theatrical releases were halted, postponed and even canceled, and a new trend emerged – video-on-demand releases.
Universal was one of the first major studios to revolutionize theatrical releases' new normal when it made "Trolls World Tour" available via video-on-demand earlier this year. The studio's decision led the "Trolls" sequel to become the most successful digital release ever. Universal's bold move now looks to be an industry standard, shining a significant light on video-on-demand opportunities.
Movies including "Mulan" and "Scoob!" followed the "Trolls" decision by coming out on streaming platforms as premium video-on-demand offerings. Universal even brokered a deal with AMC to shrink the theatrical window for its films from 90-days to just a little over two weeks. The move means Universal can debut its future films on streaming after only 17 days.
Universal isn't alone either. Disney recently announced that it would restructure its organization to focus on streaming with its Disney+ platform. As part of the announcement, Disney will centralize its media businesses into a single organization with a strong focus on content distribution and Disney+.
Speaking with CNBC's "Closing Bell," Bob Chapek, chief executive officer, Disney, reported that while the move was not a direct response to COVID, the global pandemic accelerated how the House of Mouse looks at its media empire.
"I would not characterize it as a response to COVID," says Chapek. "I would say COVID accelerated the rate at which we made this transition, but this transition was going to happen anyway."
Chapek's quote speaks to the broader industry sentiment for many companies in show business. Streaming has often looked to be the future for the past few years, and movie theaters' closures due to COVID-19 was an accelerant to that transition.
As we look to the film industry's future, streaming will be at the core of that business for many moviemakers. Theaters might never go away entirely, but Disney and Universal's decisions point to a future where movie houses will see shorter exclusivity windows and less exclusive new releases.