In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 The Walt Disney Company debuted a new branch of their Disney+ streaming service with the "Premier Access" option for new releases. They tested this out with the live-action reboot of Mulan and will use it on upcoming releases like Black Widow and Jungle Cruise, which will be released in theaters and available on Premier Access on the same date. While speaking during their quarterly earnings call today, Disney CEO Bob Chapek wouldn't confirm that the strategy of hybrid day-and-date releases or Premier Access exclusives would continue but noted that it's something they'll consider as theatrical exhibition continues to bounce back.
"The Disney+ premier access strategy, one of the things it gives us right now, and we're grateful for this is the ability to go ahead and try to release things into the market, and try to reprime the pump, if you will," Chapek said, referring to theatrical releases. "But at the same time know that for those consumers that are a little leery still about going into a packed theater, that they can go ahead and watch it in the safety and convenience of their home. In terms of going beyond this fiscal year, we've not announced exactly what our strategy is going to be in terms of which titles will be theatrical plus Disney+ Premier Access, which ones will be direct to Disney+ or which ones will go into Theatres, but know that we'll continue to watch the evolution of the recovery of the theatrical marketplace and we'll use that flexibility to make the right call at the right time."
Chapek added, "But right now we've only called those films in this fiscal year because of the relatively fluid nature of the recovery of exhibition." He also confirmed that consumer trends will further reflect their strategies on which films get what kind of release from the company, noting that Disney felt "encouraged" by polling that suggested film fans were ready to return to movie theaters.
This reliance on encouraging data was confirmed earlier in the day after Chapek announced that Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and the Ryan Reynolds' starring Free Guy will have a 45 day theatrical exclusive window when they debut in theaters later this year.
"Regardless of where they originate, all of our films and episodic series will end up as part of the robust library of content on our direct-to-consumer platforms," Chapek said.
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