“Jungle Cruise” is the latest Disney feature to be part of a hybrid cinema and streaming release strategy.
On Thursday, the studio said the film, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, will premiere in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on July 30.
Disney has used a similar tactic for “Mulan” and “Raya and the Last Dragon” and plans to use it for the debut of the upcoming films “Cruella” and “Black Widow.”
Notably, the company released Pixar’s “Soul” for free on Disney+ and then released it theatrically in countries that didn’t have access to the streaming service. “Luca” will have a similar rollout in June.
“Disney has made it clear through other summer movie strategy shifts that they are committed to a broader global box office recovery…” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice. “Combined with a desire to expand its streaming subscriber base by the end of the summer and a still packed release in Q3 and Q4, the studio’s reliance on international markets is integral to shareholders.”
Disney isn’t the only studio experimenting with different releases in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Warner Bros.’ full 2021 slate will debut on HBO Max and in theaters the same day. Meanwhile, Universal and Paramount have signed deals with movie theater chains for shorter theater windows that will allow the studios to put features on streaming earlier than in previous years.
“With so many theaters still closed or with seating restrictions, it would be difficult for Disney to recoup their production budgets and advertising spend with an exclusive theater window,” said Eric Handler, director of media and entertainment stock research at MKM Partners. “Until we get to the end of the pandemic and seating capacity is back to 100% and people are completely comfortable returning to theaters, we’ll probably see Disney have a simultaneous window.”
Still, investors in the company, which will release its second-quarter fiscal results after the bell Thursday, have little clue as to how these films are performing financially on Disney+.
While some third-party analytics have released information about viewership based on minutes watched and viewers who stuck to a show for at least two minutes, Disney did not share what these movies made in money.
Analysts and investors had expected to hear about the performance of “Mulan,” the first film available for the $30 price tag, during the fiscal fourth quarter report in November. It said it would have more to say on investor day in December but has remained silent on the details so far.
It’s unclear if the company will provide any insight into how “Raya” fared on the streaming service or if it will share other details about these types of releases in the future.
“As always, the lack of transparency around streaming data leaves a big question mark on the logic of this move versus an outright slowdown,” Robbins said. “Now the question turns to Marvel’s ‘Shang-Chi’ and whether that will remain a pure theatrical title on Labor Day. We’ll see.”
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.