Disney is evaluating its movie releases on a case by case basis as it navigates coronavirus-related closures
- The Covid-19 outbreak has crippled the movie theater industry, as cinemas have been forced to close.
- 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.
- So far, Disney has pushed all of its theatrical release to new dates on the movie calendar, save for "Artemis Fowl," which will arrive exclusively on Disney+ later this month.
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.
The first movie Disney will release in theaters once they reopen is "Mulan" on July 24. Disney said it will have a good idea of how the film will fare in reduced capacity theaters and what kind of demand is out there from moviegoers by looking at Warner Bros.' "Tenet," which arrives the weekend before on July 17.
"There's a competitive movie that opens up one week before our film does and at that point we're hoping that there's some return to semblance of normal in terms of number of screens that are opening and number of show times for those movies," Chapek said.
"So, our fingers are crossed," he said.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.
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