20th Century Studios is following the lead of a few other studios and will be making two new release titles available to purchase on Digital HD much earlier than expected. The Harrison Ford-fronted family film The Call of the Wild and the Will Ferrell/Julia Louis-Dreyfus dramedy Downhill will both be made available for digital purchase in the U.S. this coming Friday, March 27th. The Call of the Wild will cost $14.99 and Downhill will cost $9.99 That early release is about a month after both movies hit theaters, which is highly unusual—most studios wait about three months before any kind of home video release.
But this is indeed the new trend. Universal Pictures kicked things off by making three recent releases—The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma.—available to rent for $19.99 much earlier than expected, and they’ll be releasing their family film Trolls World Tour straight to VOD with the same rental price. Other studios hopped on the bandwagon with films like Bloodshot and The Way Back also being made available to rent early, while Warner Bros. went a different route with Birds of Prey by making it available to purchase on Digital HD early.
It’ll be interesting to see what other films take this track in the future, especially as we head into April when many not-quite-blockbusters were supposed to open in theaters. Searchlight Pictures already pushed back the release of the horror film Antlers, but could we see that one go straight to VOD instead? Time will tell.
The Call of the Wild floundered at the box office, with criticism aimed at the film’s use of an entirely CGI dog to accompany Ford’s lead role—although perhaps it’ll find its family audience on home video.
Downhill, meanwhile, is the next directorial effort from The Way, Way Back filmmakers Jim Rash and Nat Faxon and is a remake of the Swedish comedy Force Majeure. And while some audience members went into it thinking it’d be in the vein of some of Ferrell’s other more broad comedies, this one toes the line between comedy and drama as it’s more about a struggling marriage than wacky ski antics.