Throughout the pandemic, with cinemas mostly shut, studios have experimented with shortening theatrical windows or abolishing them outright as they place emphasis on home releases. Disney turned Soul and Mulan into Disney+ exclusives, charging a premium for the latter. On Friday, it will give Raya and the Last Dragon (pictured above) simultaneous releases in theaters and on Disney+, once again for .
Even after Covid clears, Disney is unlikely to revive the old practice of giving theaters 75–90 days’ exclusivity on new releases. “I’m not sure there’s going back” to that kind of theatrical window, CEO Bob Chapek has said.
Chapek did not clarify to what extent this premium strategy will be used in the future. He did not give any specifics on Disney’s stance on theatrical windows going forward. It’s worth noting that Disney had a terrific year at the box office in 2019, its titles grossing a total of .1B worldwide.
To recap rival studios’ positions: Universal has struck deals with major exhibitors that allow it to send films to digital after 17 days in theaters (or 31 for the highest-grossing films). Paramount is adopting a 30-day exclusivity window (45 for tentpoles) as the streamer Paramount+ launches. Warner Bros. has committed its entire 2021 slate of 17 features to day-and-date releases in theaters and on HBO Max.
Speaking at a virtual investment conference hosted by Morgan Stanley, Chapek said, “The consumer is probably more impatient than they’ve ever been before, particularly since now they’ve had the luxury of an entire year of getting titles at home pretty much when they want them.” He added, “But we certainly don’t want to do anything like cut the legs off a theatrical exhibition run.”

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