The future of cinema is unclear. The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns (or at the very least, strict physical distancing rules) has meant that theatres all over the world are closed and release dates of movies pushed back. What appears to be thriving, though, are streaming services. What else does one do, when one is stuck at home all day? I for one binged Never Have I Ever and Money Heist in the span of a week.
Anyway, to cope with the current climate, studios have started releasing many of their films online. At first, only films that were already released in cinemas such as Birds of Prey and The Invisible Man were made available to rent online. In a pre-Covid 19 world, these movies would’ve only been released online 4-6 months after its theatrical run. However, studios have started to change their strategy. Universal Pictures for example, launched Trolls World Tour on VOD, the same day that it was supposed to be released in theatres.
Disney is no different. A few weeks ago, the House of Mouse announced that they will be dropping Artemis Fowl, a $US 125 million dollar film, straight on their streaming platform, Disney+ (Disney Plus). Now it looks like there could be a lot more movies produced by Walt Disney Studios that drop straight to Disney+, as the company rethinks their business strategy. During the company’s latest earnings call Tuesday afternoon (per ComicBook.com), Disney chief Bob Chapek admitted that the company will have to assess the situation on a case by case basis.
“We very much believe in the value of the theatrical experience overall for large blockbuster movies. We also realize that either because of changing and evolving consumer dynamics or because of certain situations like COVID, we may have to make some changes to that overall strategy just because theatres aren’t open or aren’t open to the extent that anyone needs to be financially viable.”
The first sentence of his quote is perhaps the biggest takeaway from the quote above. There is little doubt in our mind that the likes of Black Widow, Eternals and Mulan will find its way to the big screen, regardless of how long movie theatres remain close. But what about the smaller films? Remember, Disney owns 20th Century Fox (now rebranded as 20th Century Studios) and Fox Searchlight (now rebranded as Searchlight Pictures), as well. So, one can’t help but wonder what would become of films like The Woman in the Window, Free Guy, Free Guy, Deep Water, etc. Heck, even poor ol New Mutants. It’s entirely possible that these films might go straight to Hulu (Disney’s more adult-oriented streaming service).