The recent reopening of movie theaters may bring audiences back, but film fans will still have the chance to watch a few major debuts at home. Disney has announced that it will release two of its most anticipated films, Cruella and Black Widow, in theaters and on Disney Plus the same day. Like with Mulan, which premiered back in September when theaters were largely closed, they will be available only on Disney Plus Premier Access for a $29.99 fee, as first reported by Variety.
This approach is likely intended to drive viewers back to cinemas since merely being a subscriber to Disney’s streaming service won’t be sufficient to enable them to watch these new films. Warner Bros is not taking that route, releasing its projects in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day, though it plans to change that in 2022. Paramount and Universal are opting for a shortened theatrical exclusivity window before their programming comes to Paramount Plus and VOD platforms, respectively.
Disney already encountered some trouble with its latest release, Raya and the Last Dragon, which hit most movie theaters on March 5th but didn’t open at Cinemark Theaters due to reportedly difficult exhibitor terms. This move will certainly not represent the “mutually beneficial terms” that a Cinemark representative described as hopefully forthcoming in an Entertainment Weekly piece published just before that film’s debut. Almost a year ago, Trolls World Tour heading straight to digital led to AMC Theaters announcing that it would no longer play Universal films. That chain in particular could use a boost after its stock, which soared last week as it prepares for 99% of its location to open this Friday, dropped again yesterday. Playing the biggest movies will be crucial for theaters to survive, and strategies like this give audiences that have gotten used to watching at home another reason not to venture back out.
This Disney news marks the latest postponement for Black Widow, a highly-anticipated entry in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Originally announced for May 1, 2020, the film was pushed to November, then to May of 2021, and is now on track for July 9th, 2021. Scarlett Johansson returns to play Natasha Romanoff, last seen in Avengers: Endgame.
While Cruella, which brings back signature villain Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians, has been in development for almost a decade, its first scheduled release date was only a few months ago in December. It will now arrive ahead of Black Widow on May 28th, 2021. Emma Stone will take on the title role.
Also on tap for Disney is an exclusive streaming premiere for the latest from Pixar, Luca, on Disney Plus on June 18th. This mirrors the release strategy for Soul, which is currently the Oscar frontrunner for Best Animated Feature. Internationally, the film will release in theaters where Disney Plus is not available. Other postponements have resulted in the following new theatrical release dates: Free Guy (August 13th, 2021), Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 3rd, 2021), The King’s Man (December 22nd, 2021), Deep Water (January 14th, 2022), and Death on the Nile (February 11th, 2022).