Disney CEO Bob Chapek on Shortened Theatrical Windows: 'I'm Not Sure There's Going Back'

Chapek talked about the future of the industry and pointed to "impatient" consumers as a number of studios lean into shortened theatrical release windows.

Bob Chapek speaks during the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Dedication Ceremony.

Image via Getty/Gerardo Mora

Bob Chapek speaks during the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Dedication Ceremony.

The tide keeps turning for theatrical releases.

As one studio after another begins to shorten its theatrical window, Disney explained their position on Monday. During a Q&A at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference, Disney CEO Bob Chapek hinted at where the company could be headed by suggesting that there’s no “going back” to the traditional theatrical release format prior to the pandemic. While that perspective is most likely true, Chapek pointed to the “impatient” consumer for the dawn of a new era for film releases. 

“The consumer is probably more impatient than they’ve ever been before,” Chapek said, per TheWrap. He continued, “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.” 

Chapek added, “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.”

Paramount+announced last week that their upcoming slate of films, which includes Mission: Impossible 7 and A Quiet Place Part II, will be in theaters for 45 days before heading to its streaming service. While Paramount’s theatrical release window is far more lenient than the deal struck between Universal and AMC Theaters where the studio can option its titles to PVOD after just 17 days, neither one of these compares to the watershed moment when Warner Bros. revealed that all their 2021 movies would be released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. 

Disney previously released Mulan in September under its premiere access offering where Disney+ subscribers would pay a one-time fee of $29.99 to view the film. The company’s upcoming movie Raya and the Last Dragon will hit select theaters on Friday, March 5 and also become available on Disney+ on the same day for $29.99. On the flip side, Pixar’s Soul, which was initially scheduled to arrive in theaters in June 2020 was released to Disney+ on December 25 at no additional cost to subscribers. Disney’s streaming platform reportedly has around 95 million paying subscribers.

Chapek’s comments arrive just a few days away from New York City re-opening movie theaters at 25 percent capacity.

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