European Cinema Owners Fight To Maintain Theatrical Windows During Coronavirus Pandemic

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The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), which represents European cinema owners in 38 countries, today called on the industry to to avoid “short-term financial gains at the expense of the sector as a whole,” as it urged studios to avoid releasing titles online after movie theaters were shut as the coronavirus pandemic intensified.

Many blockbuster titles have had their releases delayed due to the crisis, but still others have turned to VOD models. Universal this week announced that many of its recent theatrical releases, including Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma, would be available in homes today for 48-hour rental at $19.99 each. Its upcoming release, Trolls World Tour will follow a similar path April 10. Film festivals, too, have been exploring digital platforms as a way of preserving their programming for audiences as physical events have been cancelled.

But UNIC insisted that this kind of move was not within “the interest of either the sector or audiences.” It continued: “For these and so many other reasons, we anticipate that the overwhelming majority of films which have been delayed by the current difficulties will be rescheduled for cinema release as life returns to normal.”

With no end in sight to the coronavirus shutdowns spreading through the continent and worldwide, UNIC’s plan might lead to overstuffed release schedules when theaters finally do reopen. Meanwhile, audiences are increasingly turning to streaming services to provide entertainment during long periods of isolation. This week, Netflix and YouTube announced moves to limit bandwidth on their services to keep communications networks running.

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