The CEO of Disney has suggested that the 90 day theatrical exclusivity window for new movies will not be coming back.

If you were hunting for further evidence that the ongoing global pandemic has permanently altered the theatrical landscape, then look no further. Other studios have consistently looked to Disney over the past few years, seeking to ape the success which has seen the company take up to half of the theatrical market share. Whether it be through decreasing their film slates or seeking to fire up their own cinematic universes, where Disney goes, other studios surely follow.

As such, Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s recent proclamation presents sobering news for cinema operators then, as he made comments at a virtual investment conference, to the effect that the shortened theatrical window is here to stay.

Although Chapek didn’t offer any specific timeframes, the Disney CEO suggested that Disney would be looking to shrink the window of theatrical exclusivity permanently, when cinemas fully reopened.

He said that “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. 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.”

“Moviegoers won’t have much of a tolerance for a title, say, being out of theatrical for months” and “just sort of sitting there, gathering dust”.

With other studios currently pursuing similar strategies, such as Paramount shortening its theatrical exclusivity window to 30 or so days and Warner Bros abolishing the window altogether in favour of simultaneous cinema and streaming releases, none of this is particularly avant-garde from the Mouse House. In fact, with Disney being the studio that, pre-pandemic, was profiting the most from cinema exhibition, it stands to reason that the company will want to return to some form of theatrical normality, something Chapek freely admits.

He added that Disney’s record-shattering $11 billion dollar haul in 2019 meant that the importance of cinemas could not be understated, saying “that is a big deal to us, and that will continue to be a big deal to us … we realise that this is a very fluid situation.”

With its growing streaming platform, Disney+, the company are in a strong position to leverage both strands of exhibition and distribution moving forwards. Cinemas, it seems, will just have to adjust to what is likely to be a permanently-altered theatrical landscape.


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