Disney has announced the details of the exclusive theatrical release windows for the remainder of its 2021 slate of films, including Ridley Scott's The Last Duel and Steven Spielberg's West Side Story, confirming that almost all of its movies will have a minimum 45-day theatrical run before they're available to stream. Disney did not, however, say if and when its upcoming titles might be available on Disney Plus or elsewhere.
The only exception to the 40-day window will be animated musical Encanto (due for release on November 24th) which has a 30-day cinematic run before making a well-timed arrival at Disney Plus on December 24th.
Disney's commitment to full theatrical runs follows the successful cinematic releases of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings and Free Guy, which have both exceeded $100 million at the box office.
In a statement, Kareem Daniel, chairman of Disney media & entertainment distribution, said: “Following the tremendous box office success of our summer films which included five of the top eight domestic releases of the year, we are excited to update our theatrical plans for the remainder of 2021.
“As confidence in moviegoing continues to improve, we look forward to entertaining audiences in theatres while maintaining the flexibility to give our Disney Plus subscribers the gift of Encanto this holiday season.”
While temporary cinema closures during the Covid pandemic initially resulted in many studios rushing to embrace same-day online releases, it's now becoming increasingly clear that there is little desire to make that a permanent change.
Instead, the lasting effect of the pandemic is likely to be an optional shortening of theatrical release, which has already been established by other major studios hoping to get the best of both worlds while giving customers more choice.
Starting in 2022, Warner Bros theatrical films will be released solely on Regal screens, but with only a 45-day window of exclusivity, shortening the traditional gap between theatrical and streaming releases of 70 to 90 days. Earlier this year, Paramount announced a simillar 45-day window for its big-budget films or a 30-day window for smaller titles, while Universal has also said blockbusters will head to streaming platforms after 31 days, reducing to 17 days if they gross less than $450 million domestically.
While the potential for bigger box office returns seems to be a driving factor in the return to the big screen, there could also be a concern that the current business model used by studios, particularly when contracting big-name talent, isn't yet refined enough to accommodate multiple release formats.
Case in point Disney's decision to release Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson, simultaneously in cinemas and on Disney Plus, resulting in Johansson filing suit against the studio alleging lost earnings as her salary was partly based on Black Widow’s box-office performance.
Disney’s remaining scheduled releases with a minimum 45-day exclusive theatrical release include:
The Last Duel on October 15, 2021
Ron’s Gone Wrong on October 22, 2021
Eternals on November 5, 2021
West Side Story on December 10, 2021
The King’s Man on December 22, 2021
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