With Parks Closed and Theaters Crippled, Disney Plans To Spend (a lot?) More On Streaming

In 2019, Disney was the beneficiary of some 40%+ of all movie theater revenue. A year later and nobody, Disney certainly included, is making the kind of money they did last year at theaters.

Disney’s response? Let’s focus even more on streaming.

The article that is linked below doesn’t say they are abandoning theaters completely, rather that they wan to go “directly to consumers.” We’ll try to read the tea leaves after the jump.

Daniel will be responsible, in part, for making big decisions about Disney’s theatrical and streaming release schedules going forward. ″[Consumers] are going to lead us,” Chapek said on “Closing Bell.” “Right now they are voting with their pocketbooks, and they are voting very heavily toward Disney+. We want to make sure that we are going the way the consumers want us to go.”

Disney reorganizes to focus on streaming, direct to consumer

Disney is calling up the Netflix playbook.

They are going to invest a lot more into creating content. They have plenty of IP to draw from with Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel and their own Disney offerings. Not to mention, they have Hulu for more mature content offerings (see: Hulu is the Adult/Mature Disney+, Just ask Hillary Duff), if indeed they can continue to invest more in that. I hope they do. They need to have an adult arm of the company to promote.

Will they keep Hulu doing what it does? In 2024, Comcast has already agreed to sell their remaining 33% Hulu stake to Disney. Disney needs to stay that course.

I’ve been surprised just how good Hulu is as a current streaming service. Have quite enjoyed it the past few months. I’d put it right up there with HBO Max, maybe a little ahead since they are on Roku and Amazon Fire TV. The deal Hulu has with Blumhouse is great for horror fans like yours truly.

Disney+ other than The Mandalorian, the Marvel movies and legacy content haven’t done too much in their first year. Let’s hope year #2 sees more content. Am not sure even with this announcement if it will, since it takes a little while to ramp up content. Netflix has the jump on everybody in this area.

While 2021 might not bring more worthy competition in streaming leaders, if the pandemic subsides sooner rather than later and full-on production without so many expensive COVID safety precautions, 2022 and 2023 could be extremely competitive. This is all good news for us streaming customers.

What does this mean for movie theaters?

Disney has not completely turned their backs on theaters, I mean if you look at the delays on big budget titles, that is clear. However, their actions since the pandemic began have shown they’re not embracing theatrical releases as they were pre-pandemic (see: Disney Diss? Rips Soul From Theaters To Be Disney+ Exclusive).

My guess with new production (not talking about films already on production slate and/or finished, game is wide open on those films) — and take it exactly as that — is Disney ratchets down the number of future big budget movie production and shoots for more medium to lower budget titles, with perhaps a couple huge budget movies a year (one at summer, one for holiday season), targeting more traditional theatrical first distribution. They can use these lower to medium budget titles to go straight to Disney+ or maybe even they embrace something like Universal has done with a three week reduced three week only theatrical window. Will they make that deal so they can justify having some kind of theatrical release? Chances are they’re watching what happens with the deal between AMC and Universal very closely and if it works out, they’ll try to get in on that somehow.

This all could change if the pandemic persists deep into 2021 and, god help us all if it worms into 2022. Disney (financially) can’t and won’t turn completely on theaters, because the money is too good, but it’s another sign that studios are not supporting movie theaters the way they might like them to anytime soon, if ever fully again.

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