In another sign that Hollywood is really nervous about how long it will take audiences to feel comfortable going back to theaters, The Walt Disney Company announced a broad structural reorganization of its entertainment arm, placing a renewed emphasis on the company’s streaming services, such as Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+. Disney will be consolidating its entertainment and media businesses into one single company with its number one focus being direct-to-consumer content, according to Variety.
This is a real blow for movie theatres, as the company that had 7 movies last year gross over $1 billion each, with Disney features accounting for 33% of all domestic box office, moves away from theatrical distribution and focuses on streaming leaves the future of movie theatres further in doubt.
Disney already signaled their emphasis on streaming last week when they announced that the newest Pixar film, Soul, will be bypassing theaters and premiering directly on Disney+ on Christmas Day.
What effect this move has in the long run for theaters remains to be seen, but it certainly does ensure that the road to recovery for the movie theatre industry, post-COVID, will be all the more difficult.