Earlier today Disney announced that they’re restructuring to focus on creating streaming content, instead of creating theatrical releases. That decision was, almost certainly, the final nail in the coffin of the movie theater industry. Indeed a few hours later AMC announced they will be out of money by the end of 2020 and that they’re looking to start selling off their assets. What Disney didn’t announce is any plans to release their in-the-can movies like Black Widow on streaming.
So then that begs the question: Why hasn’t Disney released Black Widow on streaming? If streaming is the future and if movie theaters are all going under, why do they still have it penciled in as a much delayed theatrical release? Why are they still planning to release it theatrically rather than embracing their newly announced business model by releasing their next big movie on Disney+ where they can reap the huge monetary rewards of being an early adopter?
The answer, according to my sources, is this: Marvel head Kevin Feige won’t let them.
Even before Disney made their announcement I had been digging in to various sources at the company trying to figure out why they’re resisting releasing their big upcoming Marvel releases on streaming, at the same time they’re streaming big movies like Mulan and Soul. Everyone I’ve asked has said the same thing: Kevin Feige.
What’s not clear is what he’s doing to block them, but according to my sources Disney wants to release Black Widow on streaming immediately and Kevin Feige does not. So far, Disney has let Kevin Feige has gotten his way, but with this announcement you have to wonder if that’s about to change.
Kevin Feige has made Disney a lot of money and they’re definitely willing to give him a lot of latitude. But the writing is on the wall here and if he’s really standing in their way out of some delusional belief that movie theaters will some day be a thing again, they can only allow that to continue for so long.
If Disney’s future is streaming, as they’ve announced it is, then it may be time for them to hire people who can help push them into that future. It could even mean firing the people who made them a huge success in that old, movie theater distribution model. Because things have changed. Disney just announced they’ve changed. Kevin Feige is either going to have to change with them or get out of the way.
It’s not even clear what case there is to be made for NOT releasing a movie like Black Widow on streaming. Even if movie theaters aren’t all out of business (they will be) Tenet has basically proved no one will be willing to actually buy tickets to go to them for a long, long time to come. Tenet was a failure as a theatrical release, despite theaters being open in several states and despite Tenet literally being the only release available to watch in them. But even in places like Florida, where lockdown restrictions have been totally lifted, movie theaters remain largely empty.
It’s worth noting that I have also heard rumors that Disney is getting similar pushback from Star Wars boss Kathleen Kennedy. They announced several weeks ago that they are focusing Star Wars on streaming content. Since Star Wars does not have any big theatrical releases ready, there is no immediate need for Kathleen Kennedy to push back against the idea of streaming them. However word is that she’s not happy about the current focus on streaming and there’s a battle brewing, as Disney moves more and more towards streaming Star Wars content and further away from letting her bloat massive budgets in the name of the dwindling returns from theatrical releases.
Right now though, Black Widow is the beachhead against Disney (and maybe the entire movie industry) going full streaming. When Black Widow falls, the streaming floodgates will open. Don’t be surprised if Disney gets their way and there’s a Black Widow streaming announcement soon.