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.

Disney Diss? Rips Soul From Theaters To Be Disney+ Exclusive

Even box art is creative!

Disney’s love for theaters during the pandemic is questionable at best.

Pixar movies have historically been movie theater register grinders. They usually have good legs and make money week in and week out, grossing lots of box office $$$. The last Pixar movie, Onward, was unfortunately cut short due to theaters closing. Next scheduled is Soul. Was, rather.

Disney’s words are they believe in the theater experience, but their actions have been the opposite. First Artemis Fowl skipped theaters (Disney Pleases Movie Fans, Flexes in Front of National Theater Owners (NATO): Artemis Fowl will be Summer Disney+ Release — theaters weren’t open then, so that decision made sense), then Mulan’s unprecedented $30 premium + Disney+ experience — and don’t worry, we’ll have plenty to say about that serious customer diss in another post — and now Soul, set for launch in November is also being yanked.

Pixar’s “Soul” is skipping theaters and will debut exclusively on Disney Plus in time for Christmas. The animated family film will launch on the streaming service on Dec. 25. In international markets where Disney Plus isn’t available, “Soul” will be released theatrically on a yet-to-be determined date.

Pixar’s ‘Soul’ Skips Theaters for Disney Plus – Variety

We’re Disney+ subscribers and appreciate the exclusive content, thank you, but what about the theaters? Sure, Regal (temporarily) quit the fight again and closed, but AMC is doing everything they can to reopen their chain. If/when New York and Los Angeles fall into line, they will be nearly 100% reopened in America. The theaters need new movies and Disney sees Universal push up the Croods sequel to compete against Soul and they decide to go the Disney+ exclusive route — again.

Why didn’t they move up Soul sooner in theaters? Did it have to be in November? Like, say, this past weekend to compete against War with Grandpa? Or put it against Liam Neeson and Honest Thief next weekend? Let it run in whatever theaters are open to satisfy the theatrical window and then move to Disney+ around Christmas time?

Better yet, adopt the same reduced theatrical window that Universal has with AMC (see: Universal: The Croods and Freaky Will Have Shortened Theatrical Window) and go to Disney+ sooner? Best of both worlds, Disney.

No, instead, they just abort the theater experience altogether. I don’t get it. If they truly want to support movie theaters, then put out some freaking movies in theaters for us cinephiles to enjoy! Will Black Widow be next? Some are speculating yes, but due to the large budget that seems unlikely.

Then again … ?

Pixar movies aren’t exactly inexpensive to make either. The budget for Soul was $150 million. That budget size movie — unless you’re Netflix, anyway — pretty much needs to open in theaters. And yet it’s not. Mulan’s budget was $200 million and that didn’t open domestically in theaters either.

Some are speculating that Soul looks like a not very kid-friendly Pixar movie . Death is a dark subject, but that was dealt with in Onward. This takes it even further, however. Check out the official trailer:

The trailer looks good. Argh, why Disney, why not release this sooner in theaters?

Pretty obvious, but I’m bummed not being able to see Soul on the big screen in America. It’s not just me hopelessly devoted to the big screen, though, this doesn’t make financial sense. Disney is hemorrhaging cash everywhere right now, laying off employees and then throws this bone to the 60+ million Disney+ subscribers. Will they pick up a few more subscribers around Christmas time? Sure. Will it replace $$$ lost $$$ not having domestic theater revenue? Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s important to note for readers abroad, some international audiences will still be able to enjoy this in theaters, but we’re not hopping a plane and traveling somewhere to see this movie. There has been no international release date announced. So, the international audience is being denied an earlier theater release, too.

Your turn.

Are you bappy to see Soul skip theaters and go Disney+ exclusively? Or would you rather have seen it as a theatrical release first? Still not feeling safe enough to return to theaters (that’s OK to feel that way), so it’s moot? Or don’t really care about this film either way? Please weigh in below.

Evel Knievel vs. Disney’s Duke Caboom Legal Dispute

Am no legal scholar here, but the similarities between the two pictured above are undeniable.

Does Duke Caboom in Toy Story 4 infringe upon Evel Knievel? That’s the question Evel’s son, Kelly, and his company are asking the courts to decide in a lawsuit aimed square at Disney.

A company called K&K Promotions just filed suit against Disney, Pixar and whole a bunch of their subsidiaries … claiming the stuntman driver toy that Keanu Reeves voiced in the latest ‘Toy Story’ flick is a clear and obvious rip-off of the legendary American motorcycle daredevil.

Disney Sued Over ‘Toy Story 4’ Duke Caboom Resemblance to Evel Knievel

We’re guessing the likeness alone wasn’t what immediately triggered the lawsuit, but the toy that Disney made of the stunt cycle. There can only be one wind-up stuntcycle from a daredevil motorcycle, and that’s the classic Evel Knievel Ideal toy. Once upon a very long time ago, I had one of those badboys and it was more fun than any toy has the right to be.

When you start getting into the toy licensing business, it’s a whole other issue. There’s a series on Netflix right now covering just how big the toy business is for franchises and that’s something Evel’s estate can’t overlook.

Not sure why Disney didn’t just go all in and buy a license for Evel? Wouldn’t that have been even more exciting in Toy Story 4 to have an Evel Knievel daredevil toy in the movie? Talk about crossbranding galore.

No idea how this turns out, but when the courts are involved it can get expensive quickly.

YIKES – Disney Postpones Black Widow, West Side Story, Death On The Nile … more

Originally May 2020, now 2021, a bloody red x so fitting

2020 is proving to be disastrous on many levels and, somehow, it’s even worse for movie theaters.

Disney must not have liked the results of their own Mulan premium VOD experiment and/or what they saw with the business Tenet was doing domestically and has thrown a grenade into the schedule, triggering a cascade of titles being postponed.

They’ve pulled the lone remaining Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) title for 2020: Black Widow, which was set to be released November 6. Also gone is Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story and Death On The Nile which was coming in October. The full list of changes is detailed after the jump.

The results are bad news for the exhibition industry, which is facing fierce headwinds after closing for months due to coronavirus. The studio has kept the late November release date of Pixar’s “Soul,” surprising some in the industry who had expected the animated family film to either move to a later perch or get released on Disney Plus. The moves set off a cascade of distribution shifts that will upend the theatrical landscape for months. Other Marvel releases, such as “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Eternals” will all debut deeper into 2021. Disney’s release date shifts all but guarantee that box office revenues this year will reach a nadir — analysts have already projected that domestic grosses would decline between 70% to 80% due to the pandemic.

‘Black Widow,’ ‘West Side Story,’ ‘Shang-Chi’ Postpone Release – Variety

Have to put these changes in bullet list, because there are numerous to share. All the more reasons we’ve not posted the 2021 list of movies coming soon yet (had it draft status and been making changes for several months now — it just keeps changing and changing and changing…).

  • Death on the Nile (delayed, moved from Oct 9 to Oct 23, move #2 to Dec 18, 2020)
  • The Empty Man (moved UP from Dec 4, 2020 to Oct 23, 2020) – this is taking Death On The Nile’s slot
  • Black WidowFIRST LOOK (delayed, moved from May 1 to Nov 6, move #2 to May 7, 2021)
  • Deep Water (delayed, moved from Nov 13, 2020 to August 13, 2021)
  • West Side Story (delayed, moved from Dec 18, 2020 to Dec 10, 2021)
  • Eternals (delayed, already moved from 2020 to Feb 21, 2021, move #2 to Nov 5, 2021)
  • Shang-Chi (delayed, moved from May 7, 2021 to July 9, 2021)
  • The King’s Man (moved UP from Feb 26, 2020 to Feb 12, 2021) NOTE: this movie has moved around many times already

Keep in mind that the house of mouse was responsible for some 33%+ of domestic box office sales in 2019 (source). But, and hesitate to show unrealistic optimism, there are new movies still coming in 2020. Don’t give up on 2020 fellow movie theater fans.

Yes, a decent number of new movies remain on the schedule for October (6), November (7) and December (8) 2020. By our count as of this writing: 21 total new wide release remain left for 2020 including several notable titles: Ammonite, Soul, No Time To Die, Free Guy, Coming 2 America, Wonder Woman and Dune.

The news is fresh from earlier today, so we’ll see what other changes follow as time marches on.

To end on a positive movie-oriented note, just watched Enola Holmes ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ – on Netflix that came out today. Good stuff! Didn’t think I’d like anything Holmes related without Watson, but his sister is entertaining fare. Recommended.

Do “BIG” problems exists with The Mandalorian Season 2?

Season 1 of The Mandalorian release schedule

When it comes to highly anticipated The Mandalorian Season 2 which is coming October 30, 2020 to Disney+, not having a season 2 trailer available the month before is … curious. Any day now?

Insider Grace Randolph has now revealed the reason, as she’s claiming that the studio “didn’t like” the season 2 trailer and so has delayed it to get it re-edited. That’s a fairly minor issue on its own, but according to Randolph, it’s indicative of much bigger problems Disney has with the whole season.

Disney Reportedly Has A Big Problem With The Mandalorian Season 2

Wonder what Disney allegedly doesn’t like about the Season 2 trailer? Does it maybe not show enough? Show too much? Doesn’t have a killer surprise like The Child (Baby Yoda) All kinds of speculation is possible. Probably not another killer character like The Child, but who knows. So many wild, imaginative creatures and characters in the Star Wars universe.

As for Grace Randolph suggesting that whatever is wrong being “BIG” (her exact quote on Twitter) that it could still be fixed or “papered over” …. huh? What can be papered over that’s “BIG”?

This might be a good time to revisit The Mandalorian Season 1 trailer:

The awesome Season 1 trailer for The Mandalorian — is it too difficult to top?

It’s understandable that Disney is worried that Season 2 will not be as good as the first. That’s the case for a lot of TV series, so that isn’t exactly earth shattering. Odds are it won’t be, but it could still be very, very good. Just finished watching Season 2 of Cobra Kai and, while it’s very good, too, it’s not as good as the first season. It’s going to have to be significantly worse than Season 1 to be like the last Star Wars movie.

Tensions are high right now, not just at Disney, but everywhere. Just a guess, but think we’ll soon see The Mandalorian Season 2 official trailer drop and it will make most fans happy, us included. It will get us pumped up for Season 2, which we already revved up. We’re ready, bring it on!

Does streaming availability hurt 4K physical disc sales? Disney isn’t making any more catalog physical discs

We haven’t pondered the question in the headline here yet, but it’s a good one to ask considering Disney’s recent rumored decision not to make 4K physical discs for their own catalog or the recently acquired 20th Century Fox.

In essence, my sources said, beyond new release theatrical titles, animated fare from Disney and Pixar, or Star Wars and Marvel-related projects, there were no plans at the studio going forward to release titles on physical 4K Ultra HD—future releases would be 4K Digital only.

Yes, it appears that Disney currently has no plans for more live-action catalog on physical 4K

To clarify, this means only new theatrical releases? What about VOD? What about Mulan, which is going to be at Disney+ and a $30 VOD rental? Will that ever make it to 4K physical disc? It’s not a theatrical title, so based on the quote the answer would seem to be no.

Why is Disney making this decision? Do they think that streaming hurts the 4K physical disc sales? Or is the reverse true? If enough people own all the movies they want in physical format, why would they subscribe to Disney+ streaming?

From our experience owning hundreds (almost 1,000 at one time) DVDs and some amount of Blu-ray, owning the physical discs makes zero difference on the streaming channels we subscribe to today. Sure, our collection has diminished, but it’s just not that convenient going for the discs vs. grabbing the remote and pulling up the title on streaming.

The quality mostly isn’t there for the most part in streaming. Unless it’s 4K streaming, of course.

Rather, I think this move has everything to do with Disney wanting to limit their vault offerings (see: Smaller Theaters Are Frustrated over Disney’s Movie ‘Vault’) and make it more appealing to subscribe — and stay subscribed — to Disney+. Then they can rotate in/out vault titles that they aren’t licensing to competitors. The longer the time period since the last physical disc was made available, the more incentive people might have to resubscribe or stay subscribed longer.

(Retention!)

Bisexual Writer Succeeds in Creating First Main Bi Character on Disney’s The Owl House

Diversity is everywhere in 2020 — and, when it fits the story, that’s a good thing.

Dana Terrace wanted to write a bi character into the animated show The Owl House and, at first, received resistance. Ultimately, Disney allowed her character through with her sexual orientation in tact.

The Owl House follows Luz Noceda, a 14-year-old Dominican-American girl who stumbles upon a magical world and attempts to become a witch. On Aug. 8, the show aired a prom-themed episode in which Luz dances with another female character, Amity, who is shown to have a crush on Luz. After the episode’s debut, creator Dana Terrace tweeted, “In [development] I was very open about my intention to put queer kids in the main cast….When we were greenlit I was told by certain Disney leadership that I could NOT represent any form of bi or gay relationship on the Channel.” “I’m bi! I want to write a bi character, dammit!” she continued.

The Owl House Features Disney’s First Bisexual Lead Character | PEOPLE.com

Some might notice above that I added “when it fits the story” and it sounds like from her quote this writer wanted to insert a bi character because she was bi.

I’m interested in stories about LGBQT+ characters but not for characters originally straight being rewritten as LGBQT+ to fit with the current times. I think there is an important distinction there. Plenty of great stories about all kinds of different characters with different races and sexual orientation that we don’t need to take traditionally established characters and force a certain sexual orientation on them. That isn’t happening here, it’s a new creative work, which I fully support.

For a more specific example of what I don’t support, see: Velma “officially” a lesbian in Scooby-Doo is relevant to the show … how?

I’m all about creativity and definitely see plenty of stories that can be told with LGBQT+ characters as the lead, so kudos to Disney for The Owl House. No idea how good the show is or not — we don’t have Disney TV, only Disney+ — that is ultimately what will matter, not that it was the first to break down a wall that frankly shouldn’t even have needed to be broken down. Disney, really, you couldn’t have had a main bisexual character in something earlier than 2020? Still, glad this particular glass ceiling is cracked now, regardless if it took nearly 100 years to do so. Yes, Disney was founded in 1923, so darn near 100 years.

The Owl House can be found airing on the Disney Channel. Eventually it will appear on Disney+, but it’s not there as of this writing.

AMC more supportive of Disney’s Mulan release plans than Universal’s Trolls World Tour

It’s not a stretch to believe AMC is a mess on a number of public relations fronts right now.

We thought AMC was a toothless bear with missing claws when their CEO was lashing out at Universal over the launch of Trolls World Tour (see: AMC Titanic May Just Have Struck Studio Iceberg – They Will No Longer Play ANY Universal Movies). Now, less than half a year later, this has all but been proven.

Or maybe it’s because AMC is more afraid of Disney than Universal?

Whatever the case, AMC’s empty threat of not showing any Universal movies was revoked and recently they struck a deal to shorten the theatrical window to 17 days for Universal and Focus Features movies (see: Good deal – AMC strikes historic deal with Universal to shrink theatrical window to 17 days), with AMC receiving a slice of Universal’s VOD revenue. I’m sticking by this being a good deal, but others in the industry, including other studios and the other two theater chains, have criticized the deal.

What’s fascinating is how quickly AMC’s #1 in the industry position being completely closed and flailing financially has warmed their tone. It looks like pure survival instinct vs. playing the industry heavy.

Aron’s comments are strikingly different from his attitude just five months ago. When the coronavirus pandemic shuttered theaters across the nation, Universal opted to release Trolls World Tour on-demand, prompting AMC to threaten a ban on the studio’s films. “This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theatres reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat,” Aron said of the ban at the time, which has since been revoked since AMC and Universal’s historic deal.

AMC CEO Reacts to Disney Releasing Mulan on VOD – /Film

We’ve mentioned before that we rarely visit AMC theaters. The indecisive way they’ve behaved during the pandemic only makes them less desirable to us going forward to patronize. Admittedly, we have the benefit here — once most/all theaters reopen, that is — of having a cross selection of movie theaters including Regal and Cinemark, independents and AMC to choose from.

With multiple choices competing for our moviegoer $$$, and even before the pandemic, we rarely patronized AMC theaters. The AMC Stubs List program isn’t as good for our movie watching routine as the Regal Unlimited Plan (see: Yes, More Perks and Quirks to Entice Moviegoers Please + Regal Unlimited 2019 Recap), which is probably the #1 reason we prefer Regal over AMC, but if we only had AMC theaters to choose from, not being hypocritical, but we’d patronize AMC more. Having an indecisive corporation isn’t necessarily the fault of the local theater and management.

Recently, one reader commented that AMC has better popcorn than Regal. We need to do a taste comparison between the theaters, because honestly, my memory is both make good popcorn. It’s a curious observation and one marked down for future exploration.

Disney Putting International Muscle Behind Star India instead of Hulu Global Launch?

hotstar.com is the home of Star India, owned by Disney

When it comes to what’s popular outside the United States as far as TV, streaming, whatever goes, we don’t know much. Therefore, if we get the facts wrong on international news, please feel free to correct in the comments.

Crossover relevance to the United States is coming, so stay with me.

Apparently, Star India is a major pay movie and TV channel abroad and is owned by Disney. Meanwhile, Hulu remains an exclusive streaming service in America.

There has been talk about expanding Hulu internationally for some time, but since Disney bought Fox and plans to buy the other part of Hulu owned by Comcast in 2024, Disney appears to be changing focus to Star India instead of Hulu abroad.

Chapek explained on the earnings call that Hulu aggregates third-party content, while the Star service will host Disney-owned content from ABC Studios, Fox TV, FX, and other such sources. Chapek also added, “And Hulu also, I must say, has no brand awareness outside of the U.S., and nor does Hulu have any content that’s been licensed to it internationally.” That shows that Disney would essentially be starting from scratch if it took Hulu outside of the U.S. Additionally, Hulu’s ad business won’t transition easily to international markets. Looking at those reasons as well as Star’s strength in India, it’s clear why Disney is elevating that brand and not Hulu.

Is Walt Disney Giving Up on Hulu?

This makes sense, but can’t help wondering: what is going to happen to Hulu? We subscribed a month ago and it’s currently one of the better streaming services out there, with a solid amount of exclusive/original content, recent popular TV shows like The Orville, Rick and Morty (also on HBO Max), documentaries, miniseries and a compelling selection of movies.

We watch Hulu more than Peacock and CBS All Access and DC Universe (in fairness, DCU doesn’t have many movies or TV shows), but not as much as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max.

What do you think will happen to Hulu? What should happen to Hulu?

Disney lost “nearly $5 billion” in third quarter, decides to release Mulan to Disney+ for additional $29.99 on September 4

Hold the swords, King Arthur!

We’ve got a rare 5th post of the day for some exciting news coming down the pipeline concerning the other shoe besides Tenet in the “when will it be released” camp.

Talking Mulan (FIRST LOOK)

Mulan has a reported ~$200 million budget and, after hemorrhaging billions of dollars in its various business interests in Q3-2020, will be streaming for $29.99 and whatever theaters are open — and will show it — under lack of honoring the theatrical window on September 4.

The news of the release came as Disney released brutal quarterly results that showed the extent to which the company’s media empire was ravaged by the pandemic. The company reported that it had a net loss of nearly $5 billion in the third quarter this year.

‘Mulan’ is finally heading to Disney+… for $30 – CNN

To my understanding, unless something changes (entirely possible), Regal Cinemas will not be showing Mulan under these conditions. They are sticking by the “must respect the standard theatrical window” requirement. So, when and if Regal Cinemas open later this month, Mulan will not be part of the offering.

Curious, I surfed over to Regal Cinemas website to see if Mulan was showing as a “coming soon” movie? Nope.

AMC? Who knows, they recently cut a deal with Universal to reduce the window for them and Focus Features to 17 days including at least three weekends. I read mixed reviews on that decision, but I liked it (see: Good deal – AMC strikes historic deal with Universal to shrink theatrical window to 17 days). We are in the minority I think on that perspective.

Cinemark is the only other giant player and they seem to be following Regal’s plans regarding not showing movies that don’t respect the standard 90 day theatrical window.

Streaming to VOD dates haven’t been pushed around that much (at all?), so I think it’s fairly safe to assume Mulan will be released on September 4, as Disney announced. What sort of theaters are open and screen it? Whole other enchilada.

Will Disney+ subscribers pony up another $30 to see Mulan? If you’re a subscriber, will you? Unless our grandchildren really want to see this movie badly, like they wanted to see Trolls World Tour, I don’t think we’ll be breaking out the plastic for this one.

I think what has me pausing is just how darn fast Scoob went from VOD to available on HBO Max. I mean it seemed like only a few weeks later. Don’t know the specific amount of time, but it might have been less than the 17 days!

Why pay $30 for Mulan, if a few weeks later it appears on Disney+ for $0 extra? I think this is a problem if there is no reasonable VOD streaming window. The other part of this decision is will we be able to buy it for $30, or is that strictly rental only? Buying and owning the movie for $30 doesn’t sting as much as renting it, only to see an appearance for $0 extra shortly later.

We’re just speculating on when Mulan will move away from $30 price at Disney+, but it’s an intriguing move considering the movie’s large budget. Does Disney need to do this out of financial necessity or is it trying to throw customers a 30 dollar bone?

Your comments, as always are welcome. Will you be paying an extra $30 for Mulan on Disney+ or waiting out the inevitable release without the extra VOD fee?