By Stephen Ippolito | December 4th, 2020
Yesterday WarnerMedia made the shocking announcement that their entire 2021 film slate would be available on their streaming service HBO Max the same day it hits theaters. The film would come at no cost extra for subscribers. The change is a blow to all movie theater chains who’ve struggled for most of 2020 because of the pandemic.
Next week is The Walt Disney Company’s Investor Day. The company will showcase all their upcoming programming for its streaming service Disney+. After WarnerMedia’s announcement, the question now becomes will they announce that they will do the same thing in 2021?
If they were to decide to follow this same model, then that means Black Widow (May), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (July), and Eternals (November) would be available on Disney+ the same day it’s released in theaters. Unlike WarnerMedia’s plan, I do think Disney would charge a “premium” fee to watch each film. Similar to what they did with Mulan.
Another thing I could see Disney doing differently is that they could make films in the first half of the year, like Black Widow and Shang-Chi, follow this model. Movies in the second half, like Eternals, will remain exclusive to theaters. With a vaccine getting ready to be released over the next couple of months, things will start to return to normal. By the time Eternals comes out in November 2021, if they haven’t gone bankrupt yet, theaters should be at pre-pandemic capacity. Disney has financially had more success than WarnerMedia at the theaters in recent years. They are at risk of losing out on more revenue, so that is why they might go this route.
Personally, I hope this does not happen. If it does and the rest of the film industry follows suit, it would certainly speed up the death of movie theaters. I love going to see MCU films in theaters. I usually go on opening night, sometimes to even see them twice. Because of the fast-emerging streaming industry, I always knew that theaters were in jeopardy long term. I just didn’t think it would be this quick. The thought of not being able to go and watch them anymore one day is a real downer.
Again, I really hope Disney doesn’t go this route, but I have a bad feeling they will. They’ve already taken a massive financial hit from the pandemic, so they might feel it’s the only option. I guess we will find out next Thursday.