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Last week Warner Bros. dropped a bombshell on the movie business when the studio announced that its entire 2021 theatrical slate would see day-and-date releases on the company's streaming platform, HBO Max. The first question that everybody asked was how other studios might respond, and since Disney already had a major Investor Day planned for today, the industry waited to see what would happen. Now Disney has taken the stage, and as expected, begun to give us a lot more detail about how the studio will handle theatrical releases going forward, including the first 2021 theatrical film that will be released on Disney+ and in theaters on March 5, 2021.
Raya and the Last Dragon will be a Premiere Access product, like Mulan, meaning there will be an additional fee attached to it beyond simply having a Disney+ subscription. Whether the film will cost the same $29.99 price tag or some other amount is unknown. Exactly what's happening with the rest of the 2021 film slate has not been detailed, but based on statements, it appears that Disney is not taking a "one size fits all approach" in the way that WB has. For Disney, some films will still be theatrical only, others might end up in theaters and on Disney+ together, and some may get shifted to Disney+ exclusively.
Later in the presentation, as part of a slate of Disney live action films, it was confirmed that Jungle Cruise, the movie based on the popular Disneyland and Walt Disney World attraction, set for July of 2021, will open in theaters. There was no mention there of a simultaneous Disney+ release. The same was the case with the Emma Stone led Cruella as well as Encanto, the animated musical that is set for November 2021. Pixar's next feature film, Luca, is also still set for theaters. Marvel had three movies set for release in 2021, Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Eternals. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Fiege confirmed that all three films will open in theaters.
No mention of Disney+ was made regarding any of the films other that Raya and the Last Dragon, so it looks like Disney is planning for theaters to be more or less back to normal after March.
Rumors had been going in both directions prior to this announcement. Some were claiming that Disney would follow WB and put everything on Disney+ in 2021 at the same time it hit theaters, perhaps with a Premium Access price tag, like Mulan or perhaps not. Other rumors claimed that Disney was going have faith in the traditional theatrical model, at least with some films. The only thing that was certain was that Disney would say something. Theater chains, guilds, and more, including director Christopher Nolan, have made their unhappiness with the WB plan known, so Disney was going to need to take a stand.
Keep reading here as we'll continue to update things here as more details are revealed during Disney's Investor Day event.
More to come...