Disney to evaluate movies on a case by case basis amid coronavirus

Disney to evaluate movies on a case by case basis amid coronavirus


People wearing facemasks, amid concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, talk on a street in front of a poster for the Disney film “Mulan” in Vientiane on March 11, 2020.

Mladen Antonov | AFP | Getty Images

Disney isn’t giving up on movie theaters in the wake of the coronvirus pandemic, but it’s going to carefully evaluate its options going forward.

The Covid-19 outbreak has crippled the movie theater industry, as cinemas have been forced to close in order to adhere to social distancing restrictions and stem the rate of infection. 

For the most part, studios have shifted their calendars to push back major blockbuster films to later in the year or to 2021. In rare occasions, films have opted to go straight to on-demand or to a streaming platform.

“We very much believe in the value of the theatrical experience overall to launch blockbuster movies,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek, said during an earnings call Tuesday.

“As you know we had seven $1 billion films in calendar 2019, but we also realized that either because of changing and evolving consumer dynamics, or because of certain situations like Covid, we may have to make some changes to that overall strategy just because theaters aren’t open, or aren’t open to the extent that anybody needs to be financially viable. So we’re going to evaluate each one of our movies on a case by case situation, as we are doing right now, during this coronavirus situation,” he said.

Chapek’s comments come just a week after AMC Theaters had a very public dust-up with NBCUniversal over Universal’s decision to release “Trolls World Tour” on-demand and in theaters simultaneously and its executive’s comments that it could do similar releases even after theaters reopen to the public.

Disney has pushed all of its theatrical releases to new dates on the movie calendar, save for “Artemis Fowl,” which will arrive exclusively on Disney+ later this month. Families, in particular, are hungry for new content, as schools have closed and kids are home full-time.

“I think you know that is moving over to Disney+ given the demographic appeal of that film, which was not originally the plan, but all our other tent-pole movies have been rescheduled theatrically later in year so we very much believe in the power of that launch platform for our big movies,” Chapek said.

As Disney seeks to build out its streaming service, titles like “Artemis Fowl” will be important to have to satiate younger viewers. 

Disney’s direct-to-consumer business has seen a massive spike in subscriptions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. As of May 4, Disney+ had 54.5 million subscribers, up from the 26.5 million subscribers the company reported in February.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.


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