Let’s stop kidding ourselves. If it fails in theaters, it fails as a movie.
Disney’s latest animated feature film Strange World was a box-office disaster–the reasons for which have been highly debated–, but it is now the #1 most popular movie offering on the Mouse House’s flagship streaming service, Disney+.
This same phenomenon was seen with Disney’s Encanto in early 2022, which included its soundtrack breaking records and winning academy awards. While it is unlikely that Strange World will see the same results, the fact that it is dominating Disney+ viewership leads us to ask the question: “If it flops in theaters but soars when streaming, is it a ‘good’ movie?” My answer, readers, is no. If anything, its streaming popularity proves just how bad it really is.
If People Are Not Willing to Pay to See It, It is a Bad Movie
The simple fact of the matter is that people did not think Disney’s Strange World was enticing and exciting enough to fork over $20 per person and spend their afternoon watching it in the cinema. That is what has always determined the success of new movies. How many butts can you get in the seats? Whether it was the “wokeness” of the plot or a failure of the marketing team, the Box Office results prove that, for one reason or another, Disney did not deliver a product that people saw as worthy of their time and money. By definition, that is a failure.
Sure, the availability on Disney+ offers a great redemption opportunity for those curious fans who say they were “convinced” not to spend the money for its theatrical run. And sure, Disney could take this success as a tease that people actually like these kinds of stories. But clearly, they also like the fact they don’t have to worry about wasting extra money on their curiosity.
Encanto was Different; COVID is No Longer an Excuse
Readers, I am not a fan of Encanto by any means. The writing was repetitive and subpar and relied on triggering the audience’s past rather than creating new sympathies, but I digress. Anyway, I am not a fan, but I will admit that its situation was far different than Strange World’s. Why? Because Disney was still able to use COVID-19 as a cop-out for why people were not getting their butts in the seats. Remember that Encanto was a theatrical flop as well and did not gain success until it was expedited to Disney+. People were still buying Disney+ subscriptions to watch it, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s soundtrack was making sales.
I am willing to admit the possibility that I am the odd man out and that lingering pandemic-era issues derailed the real success of Encanto at the Box Office. But not for Strange World.
Expediting Streaming is Making People Lazy
Unfortunately, it will continue to get harder to tell what is a good movie or not because studios like Disney that are putting priority on streaming services are creating a generation of lazy, spoiled moviegoers. How many of us have said or heard someone say that they are just going to wait for the movie to get on Disney+ instead of seeing it in theaters like we used to? And as Disney and other studios continue to get their way in shortening the exclusivity window movie houses have on the films, the easier it is going to be for people to just wait a few more weeks or months until they get to watch them for basically free in the comfort of their own home. The past three years had given studios the perfect excise to essentially kill the third-party distributors that they have been dependent on since the 1930s when anti-trust laws made it illegal for film studios to dominate distribution by owning the theaters.
So when a movie like Strange World emerges with a subpar marketing strategy and an onslaught of negative reactions from the press and individuals, can we really blame Disney fans for basically saying, “eh, I’m going to wait this one out and judge for myself when it hits Disney+”?
There Will Always be Flops Everyone Loves
But since the very beginning of movie history, the question of what is a good movie has been debated by fans, studio bosses, and critics alike. Jeffery Katzenberg famously said that he was not interested in the Academy Awards but what he called the Bank of America Awards–and luckily, he was able to get Walt Disney Animation Studios to win both. Disney movies that were originally bombs, like Emperor’s New Groove, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and Treasure Planet, have become cult classics among younger generations. But they were still failures.
It is always interesting to see the dichotomy on Rotten Tomatoes between the “Tomatometer” critics’ score and the audience’s score, and there have been movies–especially the remakes–that are absolutely terrible but rake in hundreds of millions of dollars at the Box Office.
It may very well be that Disney’s Strange World becomes a cult classic in its own right, but in terms of Box Office success and how audience members have given their honest opinions. Don’t be fooled by streaming success. It is a bad movie that Disney+ subscribers can now see for themselves for free.
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Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are the writer’s and may not reflect the sentiment of Disney Fanatic as a whole.