During his address on The Walt Disney Company’s first quarter 2022 earnings call, CEO Bob Chapek spoke on the debate between releasing new content over streaming platforms like Disney+ and sticking with theatrical releases.
In short, Chapek made it clear that the company’s decision will be focused on its audience.
He said, “Audiences will be our ‘North Star’ as we determine how our content is distributed, and we do not subscribe to the belief that theatrical distribution is the only way to build a Disney franchise.”
Chapek went on mention the theatrical success of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Now Way Home, as well as the dissonance between Encanto‘s underperforming theatrical run and its meteoric streaming success.
“We continue to see value in the movie-going experience, especially for big franchise blockbusters,” he said, “and given the performance of titles like Spider-Man: Now Way Home, we are looking forward to kicking off our Summer slate with another Marvel franchise film: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness… Encanto became a phenomenon within days of its arrival on Disney+ after families’ continued reluctance to return to theaters resulted in a muted theatrical performance. With outstanding music from Lin-Manuel Miranda, it became the fastest title to cross two hundred million hours viewed on Disney+ and took social media by storm.”
It appears that Disney is starting to ask the blunt question: What movies will fans deem worthy of defeating the hesitation and returning to AMC and other movie houses? As of now, Pixar Animation Studios’ Turning Red is on course for Disney+ after a last-minute change, but the highly-anticipated origin story Lightyear is still cleared for a theatrical launch at this time (February 10, 2022).
Chapek’s statement follows that of Disney’s Chief Creative Officer and Frozen director, Jennifer Lee, who earlier this year addressed the issue of quality between theatrical and streaming projects.
She told The Hollywood Reporter,
“We do not separate Disney+ or theatrical as one is better than the other. We give the artists the same resources, the same support, the same commitment. COVID has prepared us for unpredictability. The opportunity you get with either Disney+ or theatrical, because it’s Disney, is that your film or your series can reach the world.”
As we continue to leave the pandemic behind, only time will tell which projects will get the glory of a traditional theatrical release and which will get the rushed Disney+ launch.