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.
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.
When we saw the announcement that WarnerMedia chose to release Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously in the United States, we expected to see that the big theater chains would show it. They’d be crazy not to.
#1 AMC has confirmed as much within 24 hours of the announcement.
AMC Entertainment said in a statement attributed to president and CEO Adam Aron that it “will show this eagerly awaited movie on our big screens all across our global network.”
Regal #2 theaters are still closed all over the United States. Will they reopen in time for Wonder Woman? Unknown. We haven’t seen any quotes about how they will handle WW1984 in their theaters. They were strongly against day and date releases for streaming. They like the legacy theatrical window.
Cinemark #3 in most number of studios also hasn’t weighed in yet. Again, they would be foolish not to screen WW1984.
Either way, moviegoers will get to see this movie — if they want — before the end of 2020. In a year when new movies intended for theaters are rampantly being delayed or sold to streaming, this is a good thing.
A bonus additional post today for this major movie news: WarnerMedia has announced they will be releasing Wonder Woman 1984 to HBO Max on the same day it’s released in theaters December 25, 2020.
International theatrical markets will get to see this nearly 10 days early.
“Wonder Woman 1984,” Warner Bros.’ sequel to the popular 2017 superhero film “Wonder Woman,” is going to HBO Max, the studio announced on Wednesday.
The film will be released simultaneously in theaters and on the streaming service in the United States on December 25. It will debut in international markets on December 16.
HBO Max subscribers will be able to watch the movie for a month before it leaves the service. It will continue to play in whatever theaters are open and then go the VOD/PVOD route and, presumably, return to HBO Max and/or other streaming channels at a later date.
The next question becomes what theaters will this show in the United States? All theaters are closed in our area until December 14 when hopefully they’ll reopen. AMC and Cinemark, will they show a day and date release? I’m guessing that they will, but the CNN article is vague on those details.
This is an unprecedented move. A day and date release for a tentpole Warner Bros. movie domestically. Sure, the international market is getting a week plus head start, but this is a very curious move. We no longer have to see and hear speculation on what they are going to do with WW1984.
This will be an interesting test — at least in the current movie climate — to see how many moviegoers watch it on the big screen when they can see it on HBO Max. Will streaming viewing cannibalize theatrical viewing? In places where no theaters are open, of course it will, but this is a movie that screams to be seen on the big screen.
Will you be going to see this in the theater or watching it for the first time on HBO Max? If we can see it in a theater nearby, we will. If not, we’ll be watching it on HBO Max. What about you?
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.”
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.
Maybe we will be able to watch new movies being widely released in theaters, after all. This is in encouraging news, thanks to AMC. They will be opening a local theater next Friday 10/16 (pictured above). Just in time for Honest Thief starring Liam Neeson. We’ll be at least a week behind watching War with Grandpa, but hey, just happy to have another theater reopening nearby.
AMC is very determined to open more theaters in Washington State (pictured above), a state that only had one Regal Cinema open the last month and no AMCs reopened in our area.
AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc AMC.N, the largest theater chain in the United States, said on Thursday it expects to open more locations in Washington state and have more than 520 theaters open in the country by mid-October.
They estimate by October 16, nationwide 520 locations will be reopened. That means an AMC theater in the United States is likely be open near you, unless you live in New York and some cities in California.
Also found it interesting that AMC is crediting their industry maligned (by others) deal with Universal. AMC’s CEO explains (emphasis mine):
Aron pointed to the historic deal AMC reached with Universal Pictures in July as a reason the company is in a position to keep its theaters open. The agreement shortened the time that Universal’s films had to be shown in AMC theaters before moving to on-demand streaming from 90 days to 17 days.
“We get a cut both of the theatrical revenue and the home revenue. That’s an agreement that AMC has struck,” Aron said. “Our competitors have not yet struck that agreement.”
We’ll continue to support a reduced — and in some cases eliminated — theatrical window. Day and date releases can still make money for cinemas. They have to accept that and understand their customers — passionate moviegoers like us — want to be able to watch movies where we want, when we want and as often as we want. Those that cater best to their customers deserve financial fruits. Those that don’t? Goodbye and good riddance.
I didn’t expect Regal (#2) and Cinemark (#3) to be giddy about AMC’s deal, but thought they eventually would begrudgingly follow suit.
To their financial peril, it seems, that hasn’t happened yet.
Also, other studios besides Universal haven’t cut the same deal leaving Universal and AMC going it alone. If the movies do well released under this shortened window watch how long it takes other studios and the other two major theater chains to cave.
Then again, this is 2020 and box office revenue is beyond strained. This could also go the opposite way with AMC going out of business in six months, bone dry empty on operating income and Universal forced to go back to the more traditional deal.
We’ll know truly how important this deal is when a major movie is released under this deal. That test case will be F9, currently scheduled to be released May 2021. I don’t see Regal passing on the ability to show that tentpole film.
It’s not about what has been the standard in a dynamic business, it’s about what is and what will be the new way of doing business. A good, healthy business adapts, grows, and keeps up with the times. It seems AMC is embracing change now. At least being more welcoming toward it. Props to them. And hopefully enough business to stave off bankruptcy.
At least they aren’t taking their ball and going home for 1-2+ months like Regal is doing. They’re trying.
Maybe it’s time we consider buying an AMC Stubs monthly movie subscription? It’s not unlimited like Regal and AMC doesn’t have as many theaters as Regal in our area, but it’s moot when Regal is closed everywhere and AMC are open.
“Might be a month, might be two months (before we’ll reopen),” says Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger in CNBC interview (see video interview for full context below).
Mooky gave an interview this morning explaining why they chose to close all the theaters in the United States and James Bond being delayed is only one of the problems. It’s not being able to open theaters completely in the two biggest movie theater states: New York and California. This is a main driver in the decision because studios want those major markets more fully open before they release their biggest budget movies (Black Widow, No Time To Die, Wonder Woman 1984, etc). California is about 50% open and New York is still shuttered, despite indoor dining, bowling alleys, casinos being allowed to open.
After hearing what Cineworld main man Mooky has to say, credit two state government for not determining it’s safe enough to allow them to reopen. Maybe it’s not safe enough in those two states, but we’ve made the same observation before that casinos clearly are at least equally as high risk as movie theaters — and yet they’ve reopened.
On the subject of new movies, this is more complex and deserved some better interview question than the interviewer was informed enough to ask. I mean, talk about lobbing clueless softballs.
Yes, they aren’t getting the big budget movies because studios are delaying those titles. We’ve pointed out specific movies Cineworld/Regal should have shown recently while they were open like Bill and Ted Face The Music, but chose not to do so because it was a day and date release. I wish more news articles and reporting would highlight this important detail, but it’s continually left out as if it’s almost completely the fault of the studios and government for why movie theaters don’t have more new movies playing.
It’s not. It’s part of the theater chain’s fault, too, why they don’t have more new movies.
What about Mulan? Why wouldn’t Mooky and his team talk with Disney about Mulan? It was released internationally, but only on Disney+ plus an additional $30 in America. A few weeks later, it doesn’t require the Disney+, it can be watched on PVOD. This should have had a US release as well. Doesn’t sound like the movie performed that well, but certainly Regal could have worked out a deal with Disney to screen that movie. Somehow, some way — and I’m betting it’s because it was day and date release — that they didn’t.
I just wish somebody else in all this reporting and interviewing would ask the logical question, “if you temporarily ignore the theatrical window and embrace more direct to streaming titles you can show plenty of new movies, so why won’t you try that?”
Maybe some day someone with a microphone will ask execs like Mooky these hardball questions. Cineworld/Regal is the same company who has vowed never to show movies that don’t respect the theatrical window and yet he is whining about being like a grocery store without groceries? Terrible analogy for those who deep dive the facts.
Again, they don’t have to stick by whatever the temporary decision they make with the theatrical window once the pandemic is over. They seem to feel if they violate their principles, if they make an exception during these times they won’t be able to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
Putting all that aside, it seems like Cineworld/Regal might have hung in there, if they could have gotten New York theaters open and more like the 90%+ theaters they wanted in California. That would have given studios more incentive to stick with the November releases. That’s all spilled milk we can’t cry over. Now we’re looking at them more realistically reopening around Christmas.
Stick a fork in 2020 at the movie theaters in the United States. It’s game, set and match — for you know what.
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.
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.
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?
17 days is the new theatrical window deal that AMC cut with Universal. From 90 to 17 and AMC will share in the VOD/PVOD revenue.
The deal includes at least three weekends of theatrical exclusivity for all Universal Pictures and Focus Features theatrical releases, at which time the studio will have the option to make its titles available across PVOD platforms. Universal said its traditional windows for electronic sell-through and regular VOD remain unchanged.
The Pardoner is coming soon and it’s up to a familiar action hero to take him down.
Earlier today on FIRST LOOK Friday we looked at Endless (see: FIRST LOOK: Endless), scheduled to be released simultaneously on VOD and in theaters (if they are open). That’s a teen romance, now here’s an action film starring Diehard alum Bruce Willis.
Bruce Willis stars as tech billionaire Donovan Chalmers, who hires a team of mercenaries led by Jesse Metcalfe‘s Derek Miller to protect one of his most dangerous pieces of technology. But things go off the rails when a terrorist group kidnaps Chalmers daughters to try and get their hands on the tech, while Miller winds up face-to-face with an old enemy.
Honestly, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen an action film that’s been that good with Bruce Willis in it. He hasn’t fallen on as hard straight-to-video times as Steven Seagal, but he’s been in some stinkers no doubt, considering the former glory he once had.
I thought he might do a decent job as Paul Kersey in the reboot of Death Wish, but that script was a mess and he played that iconic Charles Bronson role too stoic and reserved. The whole idea of remaking that 70s classic film was bad, so maybe Willis shouldn’t be blamed.
This movie, as some others Willis has been in, looks somewhat interesting. Willis is 65, he’s not going to be doing much running and gunning. It looks like the Jesse Metcalf is getting the majority of the action and Willis is playing more of the boss/financier.
Same release circumstances as Endless, am curious what theaters will be showing this or if the big three will hold to the line that they won’t show day and date releases. This means we’ll be more likely to catch it on streaming.
Will we pay to see it there or wait for some streaming service to pick it up? Strong lean toward wait here, but maybe feelings change next month if theaters aren’t reopened. Vivarium (see: 22+ Vivarium Reviews – Eerie Social Isolation Timing, Better Suited as Anthology TV Episode) showed up on Amazon Prime Video pretty fast (it’s showing there now) after we purchased that on VOD. This is the problem with VOD releases, that people will wait for movies that don’t blow them away (this one doesn’t) with interest.
What was the last good movie you saw Bruce Willis in? Has it been awhile for you, too? I’m thinking Expendables as Church (?) His role in Motherless Brooklyn ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ in 2019 was too short to consider.
Hard Kill will be streaming on VOD and simultaneously released in theaters (if they are open) on August 28, 2020.
Another movie is quietly testing the theater owners’ patience by a simultaneous release planned for next month, August 2020.
It’s called Endless and so far is not getting the “they are betraying the theatrical window” buzz, at least not that I’m seeing out there. Could be because it’s not coming from a major studio.
The trailer for teen romance movie Endless has been released ahead of its August debut in theaters and on demand. The news comes in the midst of pandemic-related theater closures, which have forced many feature films, such as Tom Hanks’ Greyhound, to release straight to streaming. Others are waiting for traditional theatrical releases in August, though it remains to be seen if that will be possible.
I think the reason the theaters aren’t loudly complaining is they still aren’t sure they are reopening in roughly 10 days from this post. Why complain in the media about it when this might turn out to be another release to VOD and maybe to some scattered drive-ins and independent theaters? They don’t need any more negative press, they just need to get open as soon as it’s safe and legal for them to do so. Their lawsuit in New Jersey to allow them to reopen isn’t doing so well, according to this Variety article.
Here’s the official trailer:
Famke Janssen, from Taken, is in the movie. I don’t get that excited about teen romances movies (there are a few that I’ve enjoyed), but this title at least at this moment in time is most notable for going day and date (simultaneous release in theaters and streaming) route.
Endless will be available on VOD and in theaters (maybe) August 14, 2020.