Many movies are canceling their planned spring releases, either picking new dates later in the year or simply leaving their premiere dates unsettled for now. Comedy film The Lovebirds, produced by Media Rights Capital and distributed by Viacom CBS's (NASDAQ: VIA) (NASDAQ: VIAC) Paramount Pictures, is making a more radical change.
The Lovebirds fly away to Netflix
The Lovebirds was originally scheduled to debut at the South by Southwest festival. When coronavirus concerns led to the cancellation of SXSW, the film got a theatrical release date on April 3 instead. Then, every major movie theater chain closed their halls for several weeks, forcing the film's hand once again. The film is now going straight to Netflix, leaving the release date unstated so far.
This is not the first title Paramount is moving because of the virus outbreak. For example, A Quiet Place 2 was supposed to hit theaters last Friday but the studio withdrew it from the release schedule. The John Krasinski-helmed horror sequel is still looking for a rescheduled release date.
As surprising moves go, this wasn't exactly a stunner. Lovebirds director Michael Showalter has worked directly with Netflix before. Co-writing Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and directing two episodes of Grace and Frankie. Media Rights Capital was the studio behind Netflix's first big-budget original series, House of Cards, and currently runs the popular Ozark crime-comedy series. Netflix is a natural partner.
Even so, The Lovebirds stepped over a sacrosanct boundary of industry standards here and what follows will be instructive. Theater chains and major studios may turn their backs on Media Rights Capital, making it more difficult for its future titles to reach the movie theater. Or others may follow the studio's lead to release canceled titled directly on video-streaming services like Netflix.