In a surprise move, Disney has announced plans to move two of highly anticipated theatrical releases – the 101 Dalmatians prequel Cruella and the Marvel Studios superhero film Black Widow – to a simultaneous theatrical and Premiere Video On Demand.
Black Widow will now premier on July 9, a move back from its most recently announced release date of May 7. This latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe had initially been slated to bow last May, but coronavirus-forced theater closures kept pushing the film’s release back. The MCU entry Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings which had previously been scheduled for July 9 has now been pushed back to September 3.
Cruella, starring Emma Stone, will be keeping its previously announced release date of May 28, only adding the premier video on demand option to its rollout strategy.
The on demand component of the two release will be handled by the Premier Access tier of the Disney+ streaming app. Previously, Disney released both Mulan and Raya And The Last Dragon through the Disney+’s Premiere Access. While Mulan was made exclusively available through streaming during the pandemic, the more recently released Raya And The Last Dragon also saw a simultaneous theatrical release.
Additionally, Disney took the time to shuffle the release dates of a number of their other upcoming theatrical releases. The Ryan Reynolds video game character comedy Free Guy has been moved back three months to an August 13 bow. Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman prequel The Kings Man has been bumped back to December 22. The Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas=starrer thriller Deep Water is now set for a January 4=14, 2022 opening while director Kenneth Branagh’s latest Agatha Christie adaptation Death On The Nile will now open on February 11, 2022.
The unexpected move comes in the wake of growing coronavirus vaccination rates leading to the easement of restrictions on movie theater capacity with resultant bigger box office takes as theaters can accommodate more ticket buyers. But if we have seen anything over the last year it is that studios and distributors flexing their muscles trying to maximize profits through streaming, looking to hopefully bypass having to share revenue with theatrical exhibitors.