During a question and answer session with Morgan Stanley, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek revealed some interesting information. He hinted that films may be released differently in the future, for what he called a more “impatient” audience.
There have been a lot of changes happening to the entertainment industry since 2020. Television and film have been notably hard hit during the pandemic and releases have been pushed back a year or more, with production on many projects suffering major delays.
All of this has prompted movie studios to come up with unique solutions for a difficult situation. One of those solutions is to release movies on both digital and theatrical platforms, as Disney is doing with Raya and the Last Dragon.
Bob Chapek weighed in on the challenges and solutions Disney is facing in terms of their upcoming films and what he anticipates will change moving forward.
In the Q&A with Morgan Stanley, Chapek noted that the company will remain flexible and continually monitor patterns of their consumers in regard to movie releases:
Right, well we believe in the power of exhibition, to build our franchises. Obviously, in 2019, the last normal year, we had, we had 11 $1 billion films. And so that is a big deal to us. And that’ll continue to be a big deal, we believe. But we realize that this is a very fluid situation. And it’s fluid for two reasons, obviously, the short-term impact are longer than we want it to be, but the short-term impact of COVID on the number of screens that are open, consumers’ willingness to actually go back into theaters. But then there’s also the fundamental changes that are happening in consumer behavior, which for me, are much more profound. And of course, they’re catalyzed by the first issue, which is COVID itself. And so we’re watching very carefully consumer behavior and preferences, and to see how long term those preferences are going to shift. And that’s one of the reasons we talk about flexibility so often. We want to have a nimble organization. That’s one of the reasons we did the reorganization, knowing that the sands under our feet are shifting, consumer behavior is shifting, consumer preferences are shifting. And we want to make sure that as that happens, we’re on the front end of the wave, anticipating those changes. But we’ve got a – we’re pretty happy with our three-pronged strategy in terms of, how we’ll go to market and we think that’s the best program right now.
Disney has been experimenting with different ways to release its films. We have seen the company use three different methods when it comes to a new movie release — Direct to Disney+ for no additional fee for existing subscribers, direct to Disney+ under Premier Access in which existing subscribers pay an additional fee for a movie, and direct to Disney+ under Premier Access and simultaneous theatrical release.
As previously stated, Walt Disney Animation Studios is about to release a new movie, Raya and the Last Dragon, with a direct to Disney+ under Premier Access and simultaneous theatrical release plan. This allows Disney fans to choose how they prefer to watch the new movie.
The hallmark of the Walt Disney Company is animated feature films, so we are sure Disney will be monitoring the success of this upcoming release very closely.
In the same Q&A with Morgan Stanley, Chapek hinted that Disney movies may begin to have shorter theatrical releases before they head to Disney+ as consumer behavior is changing as a result of the pandemic:
I think within that concede [ph], we’re going to continue to evaluate given the recovery that’s at hand. But I think the consumer is probably more impatient than they’ve ever been before. Particularly since now, they’ve had the luxury of an entire year of getting titles at home, pretty much when they want them. And so I’m not sure there’s going back. But we certainly don’t want to do anything like cut the legs off a theatrical exhibition run. But I don’t think the consumer again – we’d like to let the consumer be our guide in almost all situations. And I don’t think they’ll have much of a tolerance for a title say being out of theatrical for months, yet it hasn’t had its chance to actually be thrown into the marketplace in another distribution channel just sort of sitting there getting dust.
…theaters aren’t going to be 100% back. But it’s nice to know that we’ve got the ability if people do want to enjoy it in their homes, because they don’t quite feel confident in going to a movie theater, that they’ve got that choice. What this looks like in the future? Well, we’re going to gain a lot of experience and a lot of data points.
With so many changes going on in the world of entertainment, and the world at large it is truly no wonder that Disney plans to remain focused on the data of their consumers’ behavior to inform their choices. Disney has more choices than just Disney+, they also own Hulu which can be bundled with a Disney+ subscription to offer even more content for subscribers — and offer Disney an additional platform to release content.
The Walt Disney Company has also undergone a restructuring within the company which indicated a clear focus on direct-to-consumer content.
Depending on that data, we could see more films going to Disney+ or returning to traditional theatrical release schedules. Only time will tell.
How do you prefer to watch new movies — Disney+ for free, Premier Access, or in theaters? Let us know in the comments.