Disney believes that the right call is to release films collectively in theaters and on streaming platforms, since the box office is still weak.
The Walt Disney Co. is utilizing a number of different theatrical release strategies over the next few months. Disney had to adjust the releases due to the coronavirus pandemic. Disney is releasing Pixar’s “Luca” directly to its Disney+ streaming platform. The company has also committed to releasing two movies exclusively in theaters, albeit with significantly shortened windows (“Shang Chi” and “Free Guy”). Marvel’s “Black Widow” is one of the films which will release on the same day, both in theaters and on Disney+.
“We didn’t want to delay “Black Widow” again, but we couldn’t put all our eggs in the theatrical distribution basket,” CEO Bob Chapek said, noting that the company “needed to prime the pump” and help movie theaters by giving them blockbuster films, even if those films were also going to be streaming at the same time. “Black Widow,” partly shot in Budapest, focuses on the events of the past, as we know now from the trailers. The movie is now set to hit theaters and Disney+ on July 9th.
“As we have seen with the domestic box office, and to some extent the international box office, we are seeing some hesitancy to return that wouldn’t look anything like normal in 2019,” Chapek says, adding that the company ultimately had to make a call. So why commit to “Shang Chi” and “Free Guy”? “That is later in the summer when we hope — we hope, we’re not sure — that the theatrical marketplace will recover more fully, and that type of distribution makes sense,” Chapek said. “At some point, you have to step off the dock and onto the boat … we’ll see how it goes.”