While the box office is slowly coming back to life, Disney CEO Bob Chapek says that the company is not totally ruling out a hybrid release strategy for future films. In 2020, Disney released Mulan on Disney+ with their new Premier Access program, allowing subscribers to watch the film at home for a $30 extra charge. Disney did the same hybrid release strategy for Raya and the Last Dragon, Cruella, Black Widow, and Jungle Cruise. This decision has led to some legal trouble including a lawsuit from Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson, however, Disney may still keep this strategy alive for films that may not be box office hits. According to Collider, during the company’s Q4 earnings call, Bob Chapek spoke about what Disney’s release strategy could look like going forward.
“While COVID will be in the rearview mirror, God willing, I think change in consumer behavior will be more permanent,” said Chapek on the call. “We’re watching very, very carefully different types of movies to see how the different components of the demographics of that market come back.”
“You’ll notice that the films we are putting into the marketplace that are theatrical and are family films have a fairly short window,” Chapek continued. “We’re doing that so we can get our films quicker to Disney+, but at the same time, see if the theatrical market can kick back into full gear as we prime the pump with these films.”
Disney had success at the box office with exclusively theatrical films such as Shang-Chi and Eternals. Outside of the MCU, 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy also performed exceptionally well considering the circumstances. However, there are non-blockbuster films that haven’t done so well for Disney and the company may want to keep their options open if they don’t have confidence in a film. Other studios are keeping the hybrid release strategy alive as Universal dropped Halloween Kills on Peacock and Paramount dropped Clifford The Big Red Dog on Paramount+. It’ll be interesting to see how Disney’s latest animated film, Encanto, does at the box office when it opens on November 24.