Roughly two hours ago, we received word from Universal Pictures that F9, the nineth installment of the Fast and Furious saga was being delayed until April 2, 2021, 11 months after the original May, 2020 release date. Naturally, it is because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the international pandemic that it has caused.
Our California Governor, Gavin Newsom has issued a warning on gatherings of groups larger than 250 people should be cancelled.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a bulletin that included the following:
“To protect public health and slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19, gatherings as described below should be postponed or canceled across the state of California for at least the remainder of the month of March.
• Large gatherings that include 250 people or more…This includes gatherings such as concerts, conferences, and professional, college, and school sporting events.
• Smaller gatherings held in venues that do not allow social distancing of six feet per person…This includes gatherings in crowded auditoriums, rooms or other venues.”
So what does this mean for films like F9? I absolutely all about safety first and the health of patrons across the world. However, Comcast, the parent company to NBCUniversal has an opportunity to change the entire landscape of the film going experience, or at least temporarily.
NBC’s streaming service, Peacock launches on July 15, 2020 and the best way to insure that NBCUniversal can hit the ground running, would be to release the Universal Pictures film F9 on the streaming service followed by VOD two weeks later.
Yes, theaters are already taking a hit with streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, etc. and COVID-19 is doing them no favors in the meantime either. I have always been a fan of the theater experience, except now with people being on their phones with full brightness during the entire showing after spending $15-20 a pop to see it, I don’t care how comfortable those recliners are, it’s not fair to the general movie going audience.
NBCUniversal could the first to capitalize on this, which will be the future of movie watching. Sony’s The Interview went to VOD after the hacking scandal and although that was a geo-political issue that could have launched a war, this is a different scenario.
This could be a small victory for all parties. Fans of the franchise, Universal for being the first to release a major studio picture on VOD, introverts and hypochondriacs who hate leaving the house, those who are unfortunately quarantined for COVID-19 (that we wish speedy recovery) and Peacock to instantly be able to compete with the already saturated streaming market.
I know there are other financial implications, but this is lip service from a film critic and a fan of the franchise that is looking for a compromise.