It’s kind of odd that Disney, the studio who made the most money on theatrical movie releases in 2019, has been among the least supportive of theaters during the pandemic. It seems like like they’ve almost given up on theaters altogether.
They don’t say that publicly of course, but their actions during 2020 tell a different story.
Deadline hears that the uncertainty of the future theatrical marketplace has Disney looking at launching a number of its upcoming tentpole family films on Disney+ instead of the theatrical release bows that were envisioned when the films were developed and green lit. At this point, the films being discussed to make that pivot are Cruella, the Craig Gillespie-directed live-action re-imaging of the animated classic that stars Emma Stone her Emma Thompson; the Robert Zemeckis-directed Pinocchio that has Tom Hanks starring; and Peter Pan and Wendy, the David Lowery-directed film that has Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi set to play Tinker Bell.Disney + premieres Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Cruella away from Theatrical – Deadline
As a fan of new movies being available theatrically — if not day and date, then small exclusive theatrical window is OK too — Disney isn’t helping theaters.
This got me thinking if they should? Maybe their strategy is smarter than it appears. Focus on supporting Disney+ which has had the best first year streaming channel launch of any company. The reality is they are literally stacked with great IP, so having a quality streaming channel stocked with a strong archive is a given, what’s not as clear is what new is coming to the service to keep subscribers paying?
Sure, there’s The Mandalorian, but they can only produce 8 episodes or so of that every year. What do to they do with the other 44 weeks of the year? A movie meant for theatrical release once every month or two would solve that problem.
Seems expensive to me, as some of the budgets for these movies are very high. They probably will be reducing the budgets for planned straight to Disney+ movies.
But what if the theaters rebound? Disney’s strategy seems to be that they can just redirect titles produced for Disney+ back to the legacy model. Again, I’m not sure they aren’t playing this smart. Obviously theater owners aren’t going to think that way, but studios hold most of the cards. They have the content that movie theaters are starved for.