The Green Knight, the medieval fantasy film that's been available only in theaters since its US release at the end of July, will have a special virtual screening for one night only Wednesday, its distributor A24 said. The $20 stream, which makes the movie available to watch within a four-hour window Wednesday starting at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET, reflects the continuing difficulty that films face as a resurgence of COVID-19 appears to weigh on moviegoers' willingness to return to cinemas in person.
To stream the film, you must purchase access for $20, which A24 recommends you do in advance of the start time. Then ticketholders can start streaming the movie anytime between 6 p.m. PT and 10 p.m. PT Wednesday; once the two-hour film starts streaming, viewers have four hours total to watch it before access shuts off. They also have the opportunity to pause or rewind. In addition to The Green Knight itself, the screening includes both pre- and post-screening programming, including a cast and crew Q&A.
A word of caution: Be careful about switching devices or refreshing your browser once you start watching. Purchasers get only two views of the film within the four-hour window. Once you've started playing the film, you'll have one view remaining. Playing the video from another device, or refreshing your browser and playing the video again, will use an additional view. With any further fiddling, you'll be locked out.
And keep in mind that The Green Knight's tradition online-rental release kicks off Thursday, just a day after this one-time-only virtual screening. Starting Thursday, the movie will be available at all the main places you can rent movies online in the US. Presumably, the traditional online rentals won't include any of the bonus programming planned for the virtual screening, and A24 hasn't published pricing for The Green Knight online rentals, so it's possible the rentals may be priced differently than the virtual screening.
The Green Knight isn't the first movie that A24 has chosen to release through its own online "Screening Room" model. Earlier in the pandemic when cinemas were largely inaccessible in much of the US, A24 held multiple virtual screenings for its film Minari, which at the time was an Oscar contender. (Minari ended up scoring six Oscar nominations and one win.)
But where Minari was available at multiple showings in A24's online Screening Room, The Green Knight's screening Thursday is "for one night only," the company said. A24 previously held another "one night only", the movie based on an epic, viral Twitter thread.
Like Zola's one-off, The Green Knight's online screening next week will include a Q&A with cast and crew of the film as a bonus.
The Green Knight's online availability underscores how movies' release patterns aren't returning to a pre-pandemic normal yet -- and likely never will.
After burgeoning hope in Hollywood this spring that widening vaccinations would lead to a resurgence at the box office this summer, the delta variant of COVID-19 has thrown another wrench into the works. The variant has increased cases and hospitalizations across the world, coming after vaccines had alleviated many moviegoers' inhibitions about crowding into cinemas. Now, surveys indicate consumers are again feeling less comfortable going to the movies.
For much of the summer, the box office has appeared to steadily strengthen compared to the decimation of 2020 and anemic attendance early this year. But last weekend's disappointing showing by The Suicide Squad, a DC franchise film with widely positive reviews from critics and fans, hinted that COVID-19 concerns are again tightening a grip on films' box-office fortunes.
But as long as COVID continues to make home-viewing options a necessity for new movies as soon as (or soon after) they're released in theaters, the more likely these options will become engrained in movie fans' expectations for how films should be available even after COVID risks recede.