On the latest episode of the Boxoffice Podcast, following last week’s in-depth discussion with NATO’s John Fithian, co-hosts Russ Fischer, Rebecca Pahle, Shawn Robbins, and Daniel Loria break down the streaming-centric strategies of two major Hollywood studios moving into 2021: Warner Bros., which is releasing its entire 2021 slate simultaneously in theaters and via streaming, and Disney, which is investing heavily in a direct-to-consumer strategy while still (for now) maintaining theatrical exclusivity for key titles like Black Widow.
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On Disney’s Attitude Towards a Theatrical Release Strategy
“Really I think the thought in everyone’s mind—at least that’s working in this industry—is that, yes, there’s a lot of ambiguity left from what [Disney] announced. But they still committed to a lot of theatrical releases. And they handled this in the way that I think many would have preferred other studios handled it. Looking at the content, it makes sense that they are focusing on streaming, because they’re a smart enough studio that they know their audience, and they know that the theatrical market is mature. Of course, streaming being this growing sector, [it] is going to be their priority right now. But I think I think we see a lot of headlines in the media, particularly entertainment media, that interprets that as them ignoring theaters. But [that] misses the forest for the trees. I think what Disney did last week reaffirmed [a commitment to theaters]. Granted, we’re talking 20% of their content that they discussed is for theaters—but it’s a big 20%.”
On the Possible Streaming Fate of 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures Titles Under Disney’s New DTC Model
“I think there’s no question that we’re going to see some of those legacy brands move to streaming… I would be surprised if [Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch] didn’t have any theatrical release at all. But I could see other titles that just simply don’t have a space to compete in the 2021 market. The big picture here that we all are very, very much aware of is that once theaters are open, and once big movies are coming out, there are a lot of movies that are going to be fighting for screen space and for eyeballs. I think a lot of those legacy titles will probably end up on streaming. But by the same token, you get to next fall and I see maybe a normal awards season coming back, maybe even with even more content.”
On the Timeline for Theatrical Recovery and the 2021 Release Calendar
“January is going to be rough. Most of February is going to be rough. But I think once we get to that mid-to-late first quarter, we will hopefully see not only movies sticking with their release dates, but a more reliable calendar forming.”