UNIC Shocked and Dismayed Over Disney Releasing Soul Straight to Streaming

Amidst uncertainty at the global box office, Disney has removed Soul from its traditional theatrical release. Instead, the upcoming Pixar feature will go straight to Disney+, even skipping the "Premier Access" feature the company implemented earlier this year for its Mulan remake. The current arrangement is to release the animated feature on Disney's streaming service wherever it's available. In those markets without access to Disney+ yet, it will receive a theatrical release wherever theaters are open.

As one might expect in a world where the box office has been riddled to the ongoing global pandemic, international exhibitors are frustrated they won't be able to carry the feature. After the Mouse held a premiere for the movie in London over the weekend, the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) released a statement expressing their disappointments with Disney in making the feature streaming-only wherever Disney+ is available.

"Yet again, however, they find a distributor delivering another blow. The decision on Soul is doubly frustrating for operators who were counting on the release after the film was previewed at a number of key European film festivals," the statement reads. "There is compelling evidence that where audiences have returned, they have found the experience both safe and enjoyable. But it is also clear that it is the release of new films that will make all the difference in encouraging people back to the Big Screen."

The trade organization represents exhibitors in 38 European countries and adjacent regions and cites evidence where, the org says, social distancing and new safety measures have resulted in safe experiences for movie-goers.

As it stands now, technically Warner's Wonder Woman 1984 is the only blockbuster remaining on the schedule after No Time to Die and Dune have each been pushed back to 2021. Even then, most industry insiders anticipate the Wonder Woman sequel eventually being bumped from its Christmas date.

We're already seeing some major responses to an environment where studios aren't comfortable with releasing billion-dollar blockbusters just quite yet. Monday afternoon, Disney announced it was combining all of its entertainment divisions in an attempt to put a larger focus on its direct-to-consumer products.

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“Given the incredible success of Disney+ and our plans to accelerate our direct-to-consumer business, we are strategically positioning our Company to more effectively support our growth strategy and increase shareholder value,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in an announcement announcing to reorganizing. “Managing content creation distinct from distribution will allow us to be more effective and nimble in making the content consumers want most, delivered in the way they prefer to consume it.”

Soul hits Disney+ on Christmas Day.