As more studios try to navigate various methods of releasing their films during the coronavirus pandemic, especially now that theaters across the country have shut down, most movies have received digital releases. Paramount’s The Lovebirds, a comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae, marks the first time during this period that a studio movie lost its theatrical release and will head straight to a third-party streamer — Netflix.
The Lovebirds was originally scheduled to hit theaters on April 3rd, but Paramount announced last night that it will instead skip over directly to Netflix. Paramount and Netflix currently have a partnership that comprises of a few titles, according to Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos. Most notably, Paramount sold The Cloverfield Paradox to Netflix. The streamer then released it as a surprise following the Super Bowl in 2018. Gianopulos told investors and analysts in 2018 following the deal that Paramount would use the co-venture “when and where it makes sense.” This seems like one of those times.
The Lovebirds isn’t Black Widow at the end of the day. It’s a midbudget movie that makes sense for a streamer like Netflix, especially considering what’s happening to the industry right now. Paramount also chose to delay its heavily anticipated sequel to A Quiet Place, A Quiet Place II, until later in the year.
Take a look at the box office numbers for these types of films. The James Bond franchise was estimated to be worth around $20 billion in 2015. A Quiet Place grossed $340 million worldwide, which is an impressive feat for a horror film without preexisting IP. These are movies that studios believe they can earn a decent return on investment going through the traditional theatrical release system.
Those that can’t are choosing alternative routes. Magnolia Pictures delayed the release of its documentary Slay the Dragon and changed the distribution release so that it’s available to rent from digital services. Another studio in China made its projected biggest film of the year free to all subscribers of its own streaming platform because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, as an example. Movies currently in theaters like Onward, Sonic the Hedgehog, Emma, The Hunt, and more are also receiving early VOD and digital releases as more people stay home and theaters close. It’s a trend that’s going to disrupt parts of Hollywood and the moviegoing experience. As The Verge noted previously:
What we’re seeing instead is studios like Universal starting to make pipeline decisions. There are midtier films that don’t need a 90-day exclusive theatrical release. Films like Emma and The Hunt might do better via $20 VOD rentals than they would at a theater. The average ticket price is $16, according to NATO. If a family of four wants to go see The Hunt, it’s more than $50. But $20 at home where everyone can watch and eat their own snacks is a much more enticing offer. Warner Bros.’ Birds of Prey did well at the box office, grossing $84 million domestically, but now that people are at home, there’s a good chance more people will discover it through a $20 rental as they look for entertainment to fill their time. Even the director agrees.
The Lovebirds isn’t on Netflix yet, but it’s likely to appear on the streamer on April 3rd.