Movie theaters have been mostly without new product for almost a year now, with the pandemic driving major studios to put most of their big released either on hold or dump them on their respective streamers. That may change soon. Vaccines are rolling out, slowly if not quite steadily. And theaters that had long been closed in New York City are reopening this weekend. From the sound of it, Disney is ready to return to normal — sort of, not entirely.
As per Deadline, Bob Chapek, the mega-corporation’s CEO, spoke about the company’s future during a virtual investment conference, in which he addressed how the pandemic has permanently altered how they’ll handle movie releases. Not that they’re planning on releasing everything on Disney+ (or, in the case of non-family friendly fare, other services), as they have the last year. But there will still be some changes.
“The consumer is probably more impatient than they’ve ever been before,” Chapek said, “particularly since now they’ve had the luxury of an entire year of getting titles at home pretty much when they want them. So, I’m not sure there’s going back. But we certainly don’t want to do anything like cut the legs off a theatrical exhibition run.”
That said, he thinks moviegoers won’t have much of a tolerance for a title, say, being out of theatrical for months” before being made available in homes, as has long been the custom.
That tradition, mind you, has been slowly dying anyway. In the early days of home video, one would have to wait a year, sometimes more, for movies to hit video rental stores. Then it shrunk to about six months. In the last handful of years, it’s gotten even shorter. It’s not clear how short a theatrical-to-streamer window Chapek is eyeing, or which films will hit theaters first. (Presumably their pricier “live-action remakes,” like last year’s Mulan, will look to make some movie theater scratch first before becoming part of a monthly subscription streamer.)
It’s also unclear when this would take effect, especially as the vaccine rollout is still in the relative early days. For now, though, it’s blockbusters will occupy a middle ground, getting “Premier access” in theaters and on Disney+. Indeed, their latest, the animated opus Raya and the Last Dragon, is about to become one of the first new movies released in New York City theaters in just shy of a year.