Expect these calls to get ever louder:
One of Disney’s top investors wants the company to by-bass theatrical releases for some of its big tent-pole films like Black Widow and start releasing them on the Disney+ streaming service as they did with Mulan and the upcoming Pixar film Soul.
Dan Loeb, a hedge fund manager for Third Point with roughly a $1 billion stake in the company explains that releasing high-profile films like Black Widow to Disney+ would attract new subscribers while also retaining its current customers.
More accurately: Loeb is arguing that, not explaining it. Admittedly, it’s not a bad argument; Disney made 13 billion in box office in 2019, and it looks reasonable to think that the Mouse will make something like 15, 16 billion this year from its online-only sources. If we really are losing the movie theaters, then it makes business sense for Disney to just pull the lever now and pop the chute.
The problem in all of this – aside from the fact that I like movie theaters and movies in theaters – is that this move will insulate Disney and the other studios just a little further from negative feedback. It’s no secret that the studios want the future of cinema to be people paying money every month to access their entertainment libraries. This makes the most economic sense… for them (at least until the system collapses because there’s no reason for tentpole movies because there are no more tents*). The rest of us might have a different opinion on the subject, but it’s going to be harder for them to figure it out when all they have are monthly subscription numbers to survey.
I have no good answers, sorry. Disney would like to live: movie theater chains have the same desire; and my opinion is officially not disinterested. You tell me what everybody should do.
*And/or the Second Golden Age of Internet Piracy. Which might end up bringing back physical media in a big way, and wouldn’t that be a shame?