Disney Abandons Movie Theaters, Focusing On Streaming Releases

Disney could be changing the distribution game in a big way.

By Drew Dietsch | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

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Disney is arguably the most powerful entertainment entity in the history of humanity. Their practices have shaped the foundations of pop culture over the last century and continue to be the industry’s leader in how the future of entertainment is going to be ingested by the masses. So, when the Mouse House announces a change in their distribution focus, it is not some minor hiccup to be written off.

In a recent press release, Disney announced a reorganization of the company. These happen fairly often and are usually just boringly bureaucratic. However, there was some important and potentially game-changing language buried in the press release: “Under the new structure, the Company’s three content groups will be responsible and accountable for producing and delivering content for theatrical, linear and streaming, with the primary focus being the Company’s streaming services.”

Disney Plus

Yes, Disney has officially announced that streaming content is going to be their primary focus going forward. This should be monumental news but it is not getting picked up as much as it should. That is probably because the movie theater industry wants to hold out hope that things are going to get better soon. But with all the news we are hearing and even current updates like AMC being out of cash by the year’s end, it does not sound like movie theaters are in for an easy future.

And when a mega-corporation like Disney is the one indicating that streaming venues are the future of distribution, all other content creators and distributors should be taking note. Disney has become the definitive owner of event cinema over the last decade. If any movies were going to get consumers to go to the theater, it would be a Disney production. Whether it’s a new Pixar movie or the next installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, audiences knew to equate those Disney brands with movies that demanded a theatrical experience. How is this new directive going to change things?

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Of course, it should be noted that Disney still intends to produce features for theatrical distribution, but the focus on streaming makes it feel like they are abandoning movie theaters as they are in the midst of what could be their death throes. If 2021 has the Mouse house focusing on streaming, it could spell certain doom for the big movie theater chains. And maybe that will present an opportunity for Disney to swoop in and buy one of these chains. If that happens, who even knows what the future of movie exhibition will look like.

Regardless, the fact that Disney has been outright with their shift towards streaming should indicate that the winds are changing direction. Exactly how this directive will be executed in the upcoming future remains to be seen. But, as 2020 continues to change the entire landscape of how movies and entertainment are delivered to us, it is certain that this decision will have immense ramifications for the entirety of pop culture. We will just have to wait and see what its greater impact will be.