With movie theaters shut down for the time being, and so many movie release dates delayed, moviegoers are wondering if more and more titles will go directly to digital or streaming. Disney made this decision recently with one of their upcoming movies, Artemis Fowl, which is headed right to Disney+. Could that mean additional Disney theatrical titles will go straight there as well? According to Bob Iger, yes – but don’t expect that from huge tentpole movies like Black Widow or Mulan.
No one can predict the future, but movie studios and theater owners across the globe are all hoping that movie theaters will re-open sometime soon. As a result, most studios are hesitant to move any of their potential theatrical releases directly to digital. Universal made this controversial decision with Trolls: World Tour, and Disney recently did so with Artemis Fowl, announcing it would go directly to Disney+. But beyond that, the majority of titles getting early digital releases have all had at least some time to play in theaters.
But what happens now that all the theaters are closed? Will Disney move other upcoming titles like Mulan, or Black Widow, directly to Disney+? Nope. But they’ll probably move some smaller things. Speaking with Barrons, Disney’s Bob Iger said that there are currently no plans to release big movies like that on Disney+:
“There are some we’ve decided to put on Disney+. We already announced one, Artemis Fowl, that would have been released in theaters. Others we’ve simply delayed. In some cases we’ve moved things onto Disney+ faster than we would have. Frozen 2 was one of them, but Onward would be the biggest example. It was in theaters when this happened. We moved to a pay-per-view period for a couple of weeks where people could buy it and own it. And then we ended up putting it on Disney+. In terms of movies going ahead after Artemis, there may be a few more that we end up putting directly onto Disney+, but for the most part a lot of the big tentpole Disney films, we’ll simply wait for slots. In some cases we’ve announced new ones already, but later on in the calendar.”
This raises another question: if “big tentpole Disney films” aren’t bound for Disney+, what the heck is? Disney doesn’t really do “small” movies, although they do have indie titles releasing through Fox. Looking at the Disney/Fox release calendar, the only title I see that seems like it isn’t a “big tentpole movie” is The One and Only Ivan, a live-action/CG hybrid starring Sam Rockwell and Angelina Jolie. Beyond that, everything else seems too big. Even Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch seems unlikely.
For now, we just have to wait and hope that theaters will re-open again soon. As of now, Disney is hoping things will be back to normal by the summer, since they’ve moved Mulan to July 24. But that seems like wishful thinking at this point.
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