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 Fow l, 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, hough 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.
Disney+ may benefit from further delays with the studio's theatrical releases as more movies may be going directly to the streaming service in the future. This, according to former Disney CEO and current Executive Chairman Bob Iger. It was recently revealed that Artemis Fowl will debut on Disney+ sometime this year, skipping a theatrical release. As Iger explains, that may not be the only title to make the move from theatrical to streaming, but don't expect to see it happen with the studio's upcoming tentpole releases.
Given what's going on in the world right now, most movie theaters are shut down entirely and virtually all major releases through June have been delayed. Some have wondered if Disney might put movies like Black Widow or Mulan on Disney+ instead. While that won't be happening, Bob Iger isn't ruling out other movies making the shift. Here's what Iger had to say about it in a recent interview.
'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.'
There is a lot to unpack here. Black Widow and several other delayed movies were recently given new release dates as Disney reshuffled its 2020/2021 calendar. Black Widow and other big-budget tentpoles stand to make far more money in theaters, even with a relatively uncertain future ahead, than they could possibly generate via streaming. So putting movies like them directly on Disney+ doesn't make that much business sense.
In the meantime, taking riskier projects such as Artemis Fowl and giving Disney+ subscribers something flashy and exclusive is helpful. But what other movies might fit the bill for streaming debuts? The New Mutants perhaps? Whatever the case, as Bob Iger points out, the studio is content to wait until things return to normal. Disney, more than any other studio in Hollywood, is capable of raking in big dollars at the box office. So this truly isn't that surprising.
Other studios, on the other hand, may see value in doing a VOD/Digital release. Universal kicked that door wide open a couple of weeks back by putting recent releases such as The Invisible Man and The Hunt online. Trolls: World Tour, which was destined for theaters, will arrive digitally this month. Disney has not yet set a premiere date for Artemis Fowl, but it's...