Disney Might Follow Warner Bros. in Moving Theatrical Releases Straight to Streaming

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Rumors are circulating ahead of Investor Day tomorrow that Disney might be switching gears with its new movie releases for 2021. Variety speculates that Disney is planning to release some, if not all of the movies in its 2021 slate on Disney+.

That means upcoming films like Cruella and Pinocchio would head straight to streaming alongside a theatrical release or skip theaters completely. If that’s the case, they could land on Disney+ for free included with a regular subscription, or the streamer may pull a Mulan move and release them under a Premiere Access tier at an additional charge. The cost to rent the live-action Mulan remake with Disney+ Premier Access was $29.99, as an “early access” fee, on top of a regular Disney+ subscription of $6.99 per month.

It’s almost certain that Disney would opt for the Premiere Access tier for bigger blockbuster films like Marvel’s Black Widow should it head to streaming right away. Disney’s big-ticket films, including Marvel movies like Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel raked in more than $1 billion at the box office last year, so it’s likely Disney would try to cash in on that potential success even over streaming.

These rumors come after Warner Bros. recently announced that all of the film studios’ 2021 releases will be released on HBO Max at the same time they premiere in theaters beginning with Wonder Woman 1984 on Dec. 25. This new hybrid distribution model is in response to the changing theater landscape due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new decision didn’t come without push back – Legendary Entertainment, the company that co-financed two of the films that will be going straight to streaming, “Dune” and “Godzilla vs Kong,” is reportedly considering suing Warner Bros since they were not involved in the straight-to-streaming decision. The company was a major funder of “Dune” which cost around $175 million and “Godzilla vs Kong” which cost around $160 million.

Theaters will take a huge hit in 2021 if Disney tries this same release model. With Warner Bros. and Disney both out of the equation, it’s hard to say if there’s any kind of bright future for theater chains.

These Disney rumors are yet to be confirmed either way. If there is a big change coming, it will more than likely be announced at Investor Day Thursday.

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