Liu Yifei, Mulan | Photo Credits: Disney

As the COVID-19 pandemic takes a major toll on Hollywood due to social distancing guidelines and continually rising case numbers in many parts of the U.S., studios and movie theater chains have had to deal with release date delays, production shutdowns, and theater closures.

In response, several film studios have released their new movies on streaming platforms. Universal/Dreamworks, for example, took Trolls World Tour straight to an on-demand premiere on April 10 and became the studio’s biggest debut for a digital release.

Disney+ has also begun adding movies to its library early, with the Hamilton movie arriving on the streaming service a year and half before it was scheduled to hit theaters. In addition, Disney+ added Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to its library two months ahead of schedule, released Artemis Fowl directly on the platform, and announced that The One and Only Ivan will go straight to the service. Disney recently indicated that more movies could skip theatrical releases entirely, even after COVID-19 settles. 

Meanwhile, Netflix hosted the world premiere of The Lovebirds, which also skipped a theatrical bow in favor of a straight-to-streaming debut, and HBO Max has nabbed the debut rights for Seth Rogen’s next film An American Pickle. Apple also made big moves by snatching up projects like Greyhound, Tom Hank’s WWII movie, which was originally set to debut in theaters Father’s Day weekend. Most recently, Orion announced that the long-awaited Bill & Ted Face the Music will be available on SVOD services starting Tuesday, Sept. 1.

Here’s a rundown of movies that are hitting on-demand services ahead of schedule, along with links to ways to watch each title online and where to get DVDs and Blu-Rays, if you prefer to have a physical copy.

(Disclosure: Links to retailers may earn money to support our work.)  


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Janelle Monae’s time-bending suspense thriller was originally due out in the spring, but Lionsgate announced on Aug. 6 that the film would be heading straight to on-Demand platforms on Sept. 18. Monae plays Veronica Henley, a successful author who “finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality that forces her to confront the past, present, and future.” The film will still open theatrically in select international markets. 


Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan was slated to premiere right as movie theaters across the country closed in March due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. Its release date was pushed back multiple times before Disney announced in August that the film would open in select markets where theaters are open on Sept. 4 and head to Disney+ the same day. Per Deadline, the film will be available in several Disney+ territories, including the United States, as a “premiere access” film that will cost subscribers $29.99 to view. 

Bill & Ted Face the Music

The long-awaited third installment of Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted’s (Keanu Reeves) excellent adventures is going to be available both in theaters and on-demand starting Tuesday, Sept. 1. The film follows the two as they set out on a new adventure to finally fulfill their rock and roll destiny after a visitor from the future informs them that only their song can save the world. 

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The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, the second film adaptation about everyone’s favorite underwater sponge, is skipping its theatrical release and heading straight to on-demand in early 2021 before becoming available to stream on CBS All Access. The film follows the series’ beloved characters, SpongeBob and Patrick, as they embark on a rescue mission to the mysterious Atlantic City in the hopes of saving SpongeBob’s pet snail, Gary.

The One and Only Ivan

Disney announced that The One and Only Ivan, an adaptation of Katherine Applegate’s Newbury Award-winning book, will premiere Friday, Aug. 14 on Disney+. The One and Only Ivan tells the story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who only has faint memories of the jungle and has spent most of his life as an exotic animal attraction in a shopping mall. When a baby elephant named Ruby arrives, recently separated from her parents, Ivan begins to question his life of captivity and begins to plot their escape. The cast includes major stars like Angelina Jolie, Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, and Danny DeVito.

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