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Now that Disney+ is running, the Mouse House has a new platform for dropping original content, including feature-length films. And while most of these released and announced original movies are specifically intended for Disney+, in the case on the Anna Kendrick-led Noelle and, as of last week, Artemis Fowl, they were originally supposed to come out in theaters, but then it was decided to throw them onto the streaming service instead.
Considering the times we live in, one wouldn’t be faulted for wondering if more completed Disney movies could forgo theatrical releases altogether and be turned into Disney+ exclusives. While speaking on that subject, ex-Disney CEO and current Executive Chairman, Bob Iger, acknowledged that while that could happen, most of the big-budget Disney movies will still hit theaters as planned. In his words:
There are some we’ve decided to put on Disney+. We already announced one, Artemis Fowl, that would have been released in theaters. Others we’ve simply delayed. In some cases we’ve moved things onto Disney+ faster than we would have. Frozen 2 was one of them, but Onward would be the biggest example. It was in theaters when this happened. We moved to a pay-per-view period for a couple of weeks where people could buy it and own it. And then we ended up putting it on Disney+. In terms of movies going ahead after Artemis, there may be a few more that we end up putting directly onto Disney+, but for the most part a lot of the big tentpole Disney films, we’ll simply wait for slots. In some cases we’ve announced new ones already, but later on in the calendar.
Judging by Bob Iger’s comment to Barron’s, it sounds like when it comes to blockbuster spectacles, Disney will be proceeding business as usual, which makes sense. As popular and accessible as streaming is, theatrical runs are still where the big bucks are made, and for a studio like Disney, which shells out a lot on many of its movies, obviously it wants collect even bigger piles of money from these releases.
One also has to remember the circumstances in which some of these movies were added onto Disney+ (which is offering a free seven-day trial). In Artemis Fowl’s case, this Disney+ release came not just after current events have forced numerous movies to vacate their release dates, but the movie had already been pushed back once before, going from an August 9, 2019 release to May 29, 2020. Considering that Artemis Fowl also isn’t the most well-known IP, Disney bigwigs must have felt that this movie was better suited for Disney+ rather than proceed ahead with preparing it for the big screen.
As for Frozen 2 and Onward, while both those movies had time in theaters (though the latter’s only lasted a couple weeks), they were thrown onto Disney+ early as a little extra entertainment for folks social distancing/quarantining and/or to simply get more eyes on it. These are strange times we live in, and those call for strange measures on the streaming front.
So yes, it is possible that certain theatrical releases might be made available earlier on Disney+ than originally planned, and some movies might just be transformed into Disney+ exclusives. But when it comes to content like Black Widow and Mulan, Disney still wants them to be seen on the big screen, so it’s just a matter of giving them new release dates and playing the waiting game. In the case of those two movies, Mulan is now scheduled for July 24, and Black Widow will follow on November 6.
Keep checking back with CinemaBlend for all the biggest updates on Disney’s theatrical and streaming lineups. Be sure to also look through our handy guide detailing all the movies that have been delayed recently.