So far, as studios like NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. have given in to shortened, sometimes nonexistent, theatrical-exclusive windows for their 2021 movies amid theater closings and other COVID-related challenges. The fear by theaters is that after the pandemic is over, some of these practices will remain in place, eating into their profits and enriching the studios at their expense. Disney has, thus far, soft-pedaled that as much as possible. A number of their releases have gone straight to Disney+, but they have maintained that their biggest hitters -- the Star Wars and Marvel properties -- were ride-or-die big screen releases (at least for now).
The reality of a whole lost year of releases appears to be settling in, though, and CEO Bob Chapek told a virtual investment event hosted by Morgan Stanley that the toothpaste may be out of the tube. While he isn't rushing to do a year's worth of day-and-date releases like Warners is, Chapek hinted (without specifics) that the window is shortening, due in large part to the demands of the consumer.
"The consumer is probably more impatient than they’ve ever been before," Chapek said, noting that the last year has been a game-changer. "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."
The idea here isn't to go day-and-date on every title. Instead, what Chapek foresees is to shorten the window between its theatrical and home video release, noting that moviegoers don't want to wait for months while a movie is gathering dust between theatrical and home releases.
Meanwhile, yes, the premiere releases like Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon will continue to be stopgap measures for Disney, while most of the theaters are closed and huge numbers of audience members don't want to go to crowded public areas.
What do you think? Are you ready to head back to theaters, or are you glad that Disney and other studios are trying to figure out how to make movies available to audiences during the pandemic? Sound off below.