Bob Chapek

Bob Chapek Hints at Changes Coming to Theatrical Windows of Disney Films

During a talk at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference on Monday, Walt Disney Company chief exec Bob Chapek indicated that theatrical windows may never be the same again after the pandemic.

During the speech, Chapek reiterated his commitment to releasing movies theatrically. In 2019, Disney released 11 films that garnered at least $1 billion. He anticipated that theatrical releases will continue to be important to Disney. He also acknowledged that over the last year, consumer behavior could quite possibly have changed. Part of this is that many movie theaters continue to remain close. It also isn’t known how many people will return to theaters and when. There could be some fairly significant changes in consumer behavior that Chapek acknowledged are “more profound” to him.

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

At the end of the day, Disney will let consumer behavior guide decisions on what happens on the theatrical front Chapek said.

“I don’t think they’ll have much of a tolerance for a title, say, being out of theatrical for months, yet it hasn’t had a chance to actually be thrown into the marketplace in another distribution channel, just sort of sitting there getting dust,” he added.

Currently, there is no window between theatrical release and the home entertainment release on some titles. This Friday Raya and the Last Dragon will be released concurrently in theaters and also on Disney+ with Premiere Access. Chapek declined to say whether this concurrent strategy could continue to be used moving forward in a post-pandemic world.

“It certainly makes a lot of sense right now, in a COVID world, to have an option,” he said. “Obviously, theaters aren’t going to be 100% back. But it’s nice to know that we’ve got the ability for people who do want to enjoy it in their home — because they don’t quite feel confident in going to a movie theater — that they’ve got that choice. What this looks like in the future? Well, we’re going to gain a lot of experience and a lot of data points.”

As with so many things during the last year during this pandemic, there are lots of unknowns. However, it seems what is known is that Disney is focused on what its customers want and will be making decisions on that. As the world returns to whatever the new normal is, Disney will also be discovering and deciding what the new normal for movies are. This could lead to shorter times between theatrical release to home release or concurrent releases. It is also very possible that there variable release windows for when and where movies are released. This would be done on a movie by movie basis based on what Disney believes the consumer is wanting.

What do you think should happen with Disney’s theatrical windows moving forward? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!