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ViacomCBS' new 'SpongeBob' movie will skip theaters to stream on home screens

June 22 (Reuters) - ViacomCBS Inc said on Monday the animated family film “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” will debut digitally in the United States via premium video-on-demand (VOD) in early 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps movie theaters shut.

After the premium on-demand viewing window closes, the film will move exclusively to CBS All Access, ViacomCBS’ subscription VOD and live-streaming service, the company said in a statement.

The pandemic has shuttered theaters across the globe, forced the postponement of major film releases and upended the traditional practice of keeping a movie exclusively in theaters for around 90 days.

Universal Pictures, a division of Comcast Corp -owned NBCUniversal, said in March it would make its movies available at home on the same day they are released in theaters worldwide, beginning with the DreamWorks Animation film “Trolls World Tour”.

ViacomCBS, which has been preparing to launch a new streaming service that will build on CBS All Access, said the upcoming “SpongeBob” movie will debut on the expanded service.

The new movie will be the latest in a series spun-off from the television show "SpongeBob SquarePants," which first aired in the U.S. in 1999 here and featured a yellow sea sponge who lived in an underwater pineapple.

All prior seasons of the original show, which won multiple awards, produced a series of spin-off books and a Broadway musical, will be available on the expanded service soon, ViacomCBS said.

Reporting by Shanti S Nair and Ayanti Bera in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath

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