Early release films - what are they and how to watch

We cast a curious eye over the films being released early to online streaming.

During what could liberally be called complicated times, home entertainment is experiencing a boom. Now, film distributors are finding new ways for audiences to watch the latest releases without having to go out to the cinema, with huge ramifications for the industry going into the future.

What are early release films?

Due to cinemas recently being closed nationwide, distributors have decided to allow viewers to watch titles that were due for a cinema release (or were in theatres when they closed) at home. Those wanting to catch the latest Spring releases will be able rent them through a variety of channels for the first time. This was done to allow films to make money despite there being no actual tickets sold, giving distributors an unprecedented way of letting people watch movies.

What ramifications this has on the film industry is yet to be seen, but once cinemas open again, there could be a huge push for films to release via streaming services at the same time, something that has been proposed before.

What films have been released early?

Once cinemas began to close, a number of titles that were set to get a Spring release, such as new Bond adventure No Time To Die and superhero horror The New Mutants, were officially delayed until the end of the year. Some, however, released just before the closures, meaning they were facing a huge dent in their potential box office gross.

In order to avoid this, a number of films are now available to rent on a one-watch basis through streaming platforms. Horror remake The Invisible Man is probably the most high-profile of these, as it was already experiencing a buzz and big box office gains before the closures.

Politically charged thriller The Hunt (where a group of upper-class liberals hunt some slack-jawed yokels for sport) is also available alongside sci-fi actioner Bloodshot, starring Vin Diesel.

If you’re looking for something a little less high-octane, Jane Austen adaptation Emma is also available, as well as Military Wives, which is based on the real life efforts of the Military Wives Choir.

Whether more films are released this way has yet to be seen, but if it’s not something like a Bond or Marvel film, you can expect that production companies will at least give it a go rather than delaying release.

How can I watch early release films?

Fancy checking out one of these early releases? Thankfully, it’s very simple. They’re all available through a number of different content platforms, including Sky Store, Apple TV, Amazon and Google Play. Simply go to your platform of choice (you should have access to all or most of these via a smart TV) and confirm by choosing the ‘Rent’ option.

Just like other digital rentals, you’ll have 30 days to watch the film from the time you click the button, so don’t worry if you can’t watch it straight away. Once you press play, you’ll have access to the film for 48 hours, meaning you can watch it as many times as you like during that time.

How much does it cost to rent early release films?

The cost is where a lot of the contention has come. In order to make sure they’re getting a decent return, distributors have made these early releases fairly expensive. Expect to pay around £16 to rent one of these films, which is much higher than a rental of a home release would normally be. Renting a film would normally cost you between 3 and £5, and 10 to £15 to own it when it first comes out.

The reason for the expense is because of the change of venue. Buying a cinema ticket would normally cost between 5 and £15 for one person (depending on where you live and what cinema you visit), but with home rentals you could potentially have lots of people watch the film from just one purchase. For a family of 5, renting a film for £16 is still way cheaper than going on a cinema trip.

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