Disney is moving a couple of its 2021 movies to Disney Plus and seemingly removing them from theaters in an effort to bolster its streaming service.
Peter Pan & Wendy and the live-action adaptation of Pinocchio are heading to Disney Plus as streaming originals, Disney Studios head Sean Bailey announced tonight at a streaming event. Disenchanted, a sequel to the studio’s 2007 film, will also debut on Disney Plus alongside Sister Act 3. More are likely to be announced as Disney figures out its plans moving into 2021.
Unlike Warner Bros., which announced it’s moving all of its 2021 films to a hybrid release, appearing on HBO Max the same day they land in theaters, Disney is only moving a number of titles. These live-action titles, Pinocchio and Peter Pan & Wendy, will skip theaters and stream on Disney Plus as Disney tries to bring more high-profile content to its biggest streaming platform.
Similar to WarnerMedia, Disney needs to have a continuous stream of new releases to keep people subscribed for $7 a month, and bring in new subscribers. Also like WarnerMedia, most of the movies that Disney is moving to Disney Plus without a theatrical release were box office gambles to begin with. Movies that Disney has more faith that people will go out to see, like Black Widow, are likely to retain their theatrical release before moving to other windows (digital retailers like iTunes or Amazon, then Disney Plus).
Pinocchio might have made a decent chunk of change; it’s more likely they wouldn’t. The phrase “Disney live-action adaptation” likely conjures up images of Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Alice in Wonderland — movies that all performed exceptionally well, and reinforced Disney’s decision to continue trying to adapt films. That doesn’t account for all the films that didn’t perform.
Dumbo? Lost $160 million. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and Through the Looking Glass? Drops of more than 40 percent in profit compared to the first films in their series (Maleficent and Alice in Wonderland). Christopher Robin lost more than $40 million. Mary Poppins Returns effectively broke even. These are not the $1 billion juggernauts that Marvel and Star Wars movies can be, nor are they The Lion King.
Before Disney Plus, Disney had no choice but to bring them to theaters or release them as straight-to-video titles, which wasn’t a great option. Now, those movies can be used to bolster Disney Plus and give subscribers something new to watch. Other movies that fall somewhere in between, including Raya and the Last Dragon, will be released via Disney’s Premier Access plan. That’s how Disney released Mulan — which CEO Bob Chapek said Disney saw enough of a performance from to justify continuing the release strategy, and to release more films in the future.