Disney’s ‘Cruella,’ ‘Black Widow’ Bowing Simultaneously on Premier Access and in Theaters; Pixar’s ‘Luca’ Going Straight to Disney+

Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution March 23 announced new details for Walt Disney Studios’ upcoming slate of theatrical movies, including live-action Cruella, Marvel Studios’ Black Widow, and Pixar’s Luca, among others.

Following the recent $29.99 Premier Access (PVOD) releases of Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon, both Cruella and Black Widow will launch simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access in most Disney+ markets on May 28 and on July 9, respectively.

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Similarly to the Christmas Day launch of Academy Award-nominated Soul, Pixar’s Luca will stream directly in homes worldwide exclusively on Disney+ beginning Friday, June 18, as a special offering to kick-off the summer season.  In international markets where Disney+ is not yet available, the film will be released theatrically, with premiere dates to be announced.

“Today’s announcement reflects our focus on providing consumer choice and serving the evolving preferences of audiences,” Kareem Daniel, chairman of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, said in a statement. “By leveraging a flexible distribution strategy in a dynamic marketplace that is beginning to recover from the global pandemic, we will continue to employ the best options to deliver [Disney movies].”

Additional shifted theatrical release dates include: Free Guy on Aug. 13; Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on Sept. 3; The King’s Man on Dec. 22; Deep Water on Jan. 14, 2022; and Death on the Nile on Feb. 11, 2022.

Disney’s ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ Remains Atop Domestic Box Office Concurrent With Premier Access in the Home

Disney’s animated Raya and the Last Dragon continues its strong pandemic box office run, reportedly generating an estimated $5.2 million in ticket sales across more than 2,200 domestic screens for the weekend ended March 21. The title has generated about $24.8 million ($71.6 worldwide) since its March 3 bow concurrently with premium VOD ($29.99) availability on Disney+. Raya is Disney’s second PVOD release following live-action Mulan.

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Among the weekend’s top-performing theatrical titles in the U.S., the usual suspects continue to resonate, including Warner Bros. Pictures animation release Tom and Jerry with $3.8 million ($32 million total; $70+ million global); Lionsgate’s Chaos Walking generated $2.2 million ($10 million; $15 million), followed by the studio’s newcomer, The Courier, starring Rachel Brosnahan and Benedict Cumberbatch, the latter as a businessman-turned-Cold War-spy, with $2 million. Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods: A New Age continues to shine, selling $620,000 in tickets ($55.2 million; $159.7 million) despite being available across multiple retail channels.

Oscar nominees A Promising Woman and Minari saw weekend ticket sales of $195,000 and $306,000, respectively, bring the movies’ total theatrical revenue to $5.7 million and $1.3 million.

The weekend saw most of the U.S. exhibition market re-open for business, albeit at 25% capacity (or 100 people per screen) due to ongoing government restrictions.

“This weekend showed solid results from holdovers, demonstrating the revenue generating horsepower of opening the biggest box-office market in North America,” Paul Dergarabedian, media analyst with Comscore, said in a statement. “Eager movie fans in Los Angeles showed up in solid numbers to enjoy the big screen experience once again.”

 

Disney’s ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ Tops Biggest Pandemic Weekend Box Office Since Christmas

Disney’s new theatrical/Premier Access release, Raya and the Last Dragon, topped the weekend domestic box office with a projected $8.6 million in ticket sales through March 7. That’s slightly more than the film generated in China at $8.4 million. The movie is tracking toward more than $26 million worldwide. The domestic box office topped $23.1 million — the largest tally since Christmas.

With some New York City movie theaters re-opening, the tally underwhelmed when compared to the previous-weekend’s $14.1 debut of Warner Bros. Pictures live-action/animation hybrid Tom & Jerry, which also bowed simultaneously on HBO Max. The movie took in $6.6 million in the No. 2 spot; $23 million since launching.

Lionsgate’s fantasy Chaos Walking, starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, rounded out the podium with a reported $3.8 million — a far cry from the movie’s reported $100 million production budget.

Raya also underperformed compared with the opening of Universal Pictures’ The Croods: A New Age with $9.7 million last Thanksgiving, and Warner’s Wonder Woman 1984 with $16.7 million over Christmas weekend. Raya was hamstrung as Cinemark, the No. 3 exhibitor in the country, refused to screen the movie without a renegotiated distribution deal with Disney.

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Indeed, Raya was concurrently available to Disney+ subscribers for $29.99, the same price of Disney’s first Premier Access release, Mulan, over the Labor Day weekend. Disney has not reported financial details of that direct-to-consumer retail release. Notably, Disney keeps 100% of all Premier Access revenue while splitting theatrical revenue with exhibitors.

On a March 1 virtual investor event, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the studio still believes in the theatrical business model but added the the consumer dynamic is changing.

“I think the consumer is probably more impatient than they’ve ever been before because now they’ve had the luxury of an entire year of getting [movies] at home pretty much when they want them,” Chapek said. “I’m not sure there’s a going back, but we certainly don’t want to cut the legs off a theatrical exhibition run.”

Disney Launching ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ in Theaters and Disney+ Next March

Disney will launch the feature film Raya and the Last Dragon in theaters and on the Disney+ SVOD platform in March 2021. It marks the first time Disney is launching a new theatrical release on its branded streaming platform and in theaters concurrently.

It will be available on Disney+ as a Premier Access add-on for $29.99.

The company previously moved the live-action Mulan remake from its theatrical slate and into the home via premium VOD over the Labor Day weekend. Pending theatrical release Soul is now bowing on Disney+ on Christmas Day.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a computer-animated adventure fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, the film is produced by Osnat Shurer and Peter Del Vecho and was written by Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim. The film features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran as the lead character, Raya, and Awkwafina as Sisu, the last dragon.

According to the Disney website, “Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the last dragon in order to finally stop the Druun for good. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than dragon magic to save the world — it’s going to take trust as well.”

Disney CEO Bob Chapek ‘Very Pleased’ With ‘Mulan’ PVOD Release; Says More Coming

Disney’s first foray into premium VOD distribution of new-release movies into consumer homes rather than theaters proved successful, according to CEO Bob Chapek.  Speaking on the Nov. 12 fiscal call, Chapek said the Sept. 4 availability of live-action movie Mulan to Disney+ subscribers for $29.99 was a success. He didn’t disclose actual unit sales, saying Disney would reveal PVOD data on the virtual Investor Day on Dec. 10.

“From a studio content standpoint, we were very pleased with the results of Mulan as a premier access title,” Chapek said. The title met with adverse publicity (“mostly in the U.S.,” said Chapek) regarding filming locations in China and human rights issues with local ethnic Muslims, but not before Disney was able to determine the value of PVOD.

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Bob Chapek

“We saw enough very positive results before that controversy started to know that we’ve got something here in terms of Premier Access strategy,” Chapek said. “We’ll talk a little bit more that at the investor conference.”

He said offering the movie Soul first to Disney+ subs on Christmas Day reflects the company’s strategy of upping the content pipeline to the SVOD service.

“We thought it was a really nice gesture to our subscribers during the holiday period and provide that as  part of the service,” Chapek said. “I think what we’ve learned with Mulan is that there’s going to be a role for [PVOD] strategically with our portfolio of offerings.”

 

Disney Expanding ‘Mulan’ PVOD Access to FandangoNow, Vudu

Disney’s high-profile premium video-on-demand (Premier Access) experiment, releasing the live-action movie Mulan to Disney+ subscribers, is now expanding to FandangoNow and Vudu.com.

Disney will make the movie available Oct. 6 on Vudu and FandangoNow, with pre-orders available now for the same $29.99 purchase price in SD, HD or 4K UHD currently offered to Disney+ subscribers.

Consumers pre-ordering Mulan on Vudu will get a $3 credit toward other movies and TV shows on the platform upon the film’s release. The movie was first released on Sept. 4.

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In mid-September, Yahoo! Finance, citing data from 7Park Data, reported that the movie had been purchased by 9 million Disney+ subscribers for $29.99 each through Sept. 12. That figure suggests the $200 million budget movie generated an impressive $270 million in direct-to-consumer revenue. A representative form 7ParkData later clarified on Twitter that they had estimated Mulan was watched by 29% of people watching Disney+ over the debut weekend, not total subscribers, which lowered estimated revenue to about $60 million to $90 million.

Unlike a typical PVOD transaction that gives a viewer a limited time period, usually 48 hours, to watch the movie, Premier Access is set up to allow Disney+ subscribers to pay the premium fee to unlock the movie on Disney+ for as long as they are subscribers, effectively giving those who pay early access to the movie before it becomes available to all subscribers in a few months.

Disney Offering ‘Mulan’ Access via Roku, Apple, Google Play

The Walt Disney Co. is a longtime champion of preserving the traditional theatrical window, eschewing industry efforts to push premium VOD in the home for new release movies.

As a result, the company’s decision to offer the live-action remake Mulan directly to consumers on Sept. 4 for $29.99 is a one-time bet requiring maximum distribution.

To that end, Disney will sell “premium access” to Mulan to Disney+ subscribers via Google Play, Apple and Roku. The move is significant considering that when CEO Bob Chapek first announced direct-to-consumer access to Mulan on the the company’s fiscal call, it was through Disney+ exclusively. Now Disney will share Mulan revenue with Apple, Roku and Google.

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The move suggests Disney might be having difficulty convincing Disney+ subs to directly purchase the film on its app.

“Starting Sept. 4, with Premier Access, you can watch Mulan before it’s available to all Disney+ subscribers,” Disney said in its FAQ section. “Disney+ will offer Premier Access to Mulan for $29.99 on DisneyPlus.com and select platforms, including Apple, Google and Roku. Once you have Premier Access to Mulan, you can watch as many times as you want on any platform where Disney+ is available. Your access to Mulan will continue as long as you are an active Disney+ subscriber.”

The movie thus far is not available through Amazon Fire TV, Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox, despite the platforms affording access to the Disney+ app.