With Disney reorganizing itself to focus more on streaming (and less on theaters), we’re all wondering what’s going to happen with Marvel movies.
Earlier this week, Disney announced that it was undergoing a reorganization to focus less on theaters and more on its streaming service Disney+, which has gained 60 million subscribers less than a year out of the gate, handily outstripping initial expectations.
That’s good news for investors…but apparently not good enough. Dan Loeb, a hedge fund manager with a roughly $1 billion stake in the company, recently talked to Variety about what he’d like to see the company do with major movies like Black Widow, which has seen its theatrical release delayed thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. “What Netflix has is this immense subscriber base that allows it to invest in an enormous amount of content and amortize that to get more subscribers,” Loeb said. “Disney isn’t there yet, but they need to get there as quickly as possible. If they don’t get critical mass in their subscriber base, they will be permanently disadvantaged versus Netflix.”
My understanding is that the old-line executives don’t want to go over the top with their big tentpole movies, which is why they announced they were pushing Black Widow and other movies to 2021. I don’t think they appreciate the tiger they have by the tail, which is to say the value they can drive by moving into a subscription model, which has been adopted by everyone from Microsoft to Amazon. It’s so value accretive.
Disney has already released Mulan straight to streaming, and Soul is coming soon. It wouldn’t be a shock if they released Black Widow (and other Marvel movies) on the service, especially with there still being no timetable for when the coronavirus pandemic might be over and movie theaters get back on their feet. Loeb thinks that theaters will still be around when this is all over, but that they’ll be more of a “novelty experience” and that the world is “going to go largely toward online distribution.”
I more or less agree with him, but it makes my skin crawl a little to see some of his reasoning. Disney+ reached its five-year goal for subscribers in just eight months. It still isn’t close to Netflix’s 193 million subscribers, but it’s way closer than it thought it would be by this time, and the train isn’t stopping. I figure that’s something you could celebrate while still maintaining a connection to to other businesses like theaters. There remain a lot of fans who want to see these movies on the big screen, not to mention people with jobs in the industry. They should get taken into account, too.
But the writing does seem to be on the wall. My guess is that we’ll see Black Widow released to streaming before we arrive at May 7, 2021, when it’s supposed to come out in theaters. What do you think?
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