Why Disney Plus Will Stream ‘Turning Red’ ASAP – But ‘West Side Story’ Didn’t

Pixar’s Turning Red is essentially skipping theaters, after every other Disney movie got theatrical exclusives since August.


West Side Story — Steven Spielberg’s reimagining of the seven-Oscar-nominated musical — hit Disney Plus about three months after it premiered exclusively in theaters. Encanto aired a month after theaters; for Marvel Eternalsit took two months.

And while every Disney movie since August has been theatrically exclusively for a while, Pixar’s next feature, Turning Red, will be skip theaters to stream exclusively on Disney Plus later this month.

What’s going on? Just as post-pandemic life has remained frustratingly out of reach, it’s unclear when and where Disney releases all of its movies now.

Disney+ had only been operational for about four months when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In the nearly two years since, Disney has reinvented the service as an outlet to release great new movies while theaters were closed or limping.

But lately, for movies like West Side StoryEncanto, Marvel’s Eternals and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the time they spent in theaters exclusively is almost as long as the pre-pandemic norm. This return to a cinema-exclusive strategy has helped fuel the box office performance of movies like Shang-Chi, but it has options set for fans who have grown accustomed to more choice in how, where and when they watch. new movies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the case of a family film like Encanto, theatrical exclusivity put a damper on its popularity. Once it began airing, Encanto’s soundtrack climbed Billboard’s music charts to No. 1. Videos of its musical numbers are among the most popular songs on YouTube. We Don’t Talk About Bruno, the film’s best-known song, has become a TikTok meme. But none of that happened until Encanto hit Disney Plus.

Here’s a recap of how Disney released its movies – and why it’s all over the map.

What is the release date and time for Turning Red on Disney Plus?

Pixar’s Turning Red will be available to stream on Disney Plus for all subscribers Friday, starting at midnight PT (3 a.m. ET) that morning. Like everything else on Disney Plus right now, it’s available to stream at no additional cost to your standard subscription. Some people call that when it airs “free,” but everything on Disney Plus requires a paid subscription.

In every country where Disney Plus operates, Turning Red is essentially skipping theaters. Pixar’s last two films – Soul in late 2020 and Luca in mid-2021 – were also released this way.

But Disney hasn’t released a movie directly on Disney Plus since Jungle Cruise in July, and even then Jungle Cruise was only available to stream by paying an additional $30 through the Premier Access model.

In all countries where Disney Plus has not launched, the company will release Turning Red in cinemas. (However, the film will not be released in Russia, as Disney suspended all theatrical releases in the country due to the invasion of Ukraine.)

Is West Side Story streaming?

Yes, 2021’s West Side Story began streaming on Disney Plus and HBO Max on Wednesday.

The streaming release took place more than 80 days after the film was released in theaters exclusively. This returns to the pre-pandemic standard for theatrical exclusives, which was typically 75-90 days. And that’s even longer than Eternals and Shang-Chi and Legend of the Ten Rings, which were in theaters for around 68 and 70 days, respectively.

Can I stream Encanto on Disney Plus?

Yes, Encanto became available to stream on Disney Plus on December 24 at no additional cost to all subscribers. It was just a month after its theatrical release.

That’s a longer wait than for some other Disney animated films earlier in the pandemic. As mentioned above, Pixar’s Soul and Luca, for example, went straight to Disney Plus. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ latest film, Raya and the Last Dragon, was available on Disney Plus the same day it hit theaters – but you had to pay an extra $30 to stream for the first few months.

But it’s a lot quicker than recent Disney live-action movies to arrive on Disney Plus. Encanto arrived on Disney Plus after 30 days, but Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and West Side Story took around 68 days, 70 days, and over 80 days, respectively.

(But before the COVID-19 disruptions, streaming was also coming much later in the release cycle; it typically took five to eight months for a movie to hit Disney Plus after it hit theaters. Previously, the film was in formats like DVD, Blu-ray and online rentals prior to streaming.)

So why are Disney movie release plans all over the map?

Turning Red goes straight to streaming. Encanto went from theaters to Disney Plus within a month. West Side Story, Shang-Chi and Eternals spent almost as much time exclusively in theaters as the pre-pandemic norm. What’s going on?

When the pandemic first hit, Disney made a big change to its movie release practices. As theaters closed or reduced capacity, Disney Plus became a way to get new movies to a wider audience, especially as the stock of delayed movies swelled.

Some Disney movies — usually mid-budget live-action movies and Pixar movies like Luca and Soul — skipped theaters altogether and were available to stream on Disney Plus at no extra cost. For bigger movies, Disney Plus has introduced its Premier Access model to sell streaming access to new movies on the big screen for an additional fee. Disney Plus members can stream new movies at home for $30 on top of their subscription price. Disney released five movies with this Premier Access option, including Marvel’s Black Widow in July.

Then, as vaccinations expanded, Disney reintroduced theatrical exclusives — albeit with a shorter commitment to stay in theaters exclusively than before. The first movie to hit theaters this way was Free Guy, a video game comedy from Disney’s 20th Century Studios. It hit theaters on August 13, with a 45-day commitment to be available in theaters only. Shang-Chi followed, in theaters (and only in theaters) on September 3, also with a 45-day commitment.

But with moviegoers flocking to these movies, Disney has extended their theatrical exclusivity periods by more than 45 days. Shang-Chi was in theaters exclusively for about 70 days, almost reverting to the pre-pandemic norm which only kept movies in theaters for about 75-90 days.

Shang-Chi was a box office success. Shang-Chi’s box office performance hasn’t kept pace with a pre-pandemic Marvel Cinematic Universe release like 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. In the first four weeks of Spider-Man’s release in 2019, it grossed over $340 million at the domestic box office, while Shang-Chi’s first four weeks barely topped $200 million. . But Shang-Chi still did better at the box office than several pre-pandemic Marvel movies, like 2015’s Ant-Man.

Shang-Chi essentially proved that – for a film from the world’s biggest blockbuster movie franchise – fans will return to theaters if they can’t stream it at home. It’s a big reason why Disney has returned to theatrical exclusives for its biggest movies.

And Disney makes big budget movies. For these films to be profitable in today’s Hollywood economy, they must be box office hits. Streaming movies the same day they hit theaters is definitely in the interests of consumers and fans alike, giving them the most choice in how and when to watch movies. But same-day streaming reduces box office performance. Lately, movies like Shang-Chi and Spider-Man: No Way Home have proven that big franchise movies can once again fill theaters.

But family movies, Pixar’s specialty, have struggled with theater attendance by comparison. Parents, compared to other adult moviegoers, are likely more sensitive to the risks of bringing their youngsters to crowded cinemas as the coronavirus continues to circulate. Children under five still don’t have a COVID-19 vaccine available to them in the United States, and a child’s coronavirus infection could mean they miss weeks of school and derail other family plans.

Putting Pixar movies directly on Disney Plus is, at its core, a strategy to both attract more subscribers and retain the ones it has. Kareem Daniel, the Disney executive in charge of cast calls like this, noted in Turning Red’s announcement that Soul and Luca were “enthusiastically embraced” by Disney Plus subscribers when they went straight to the service.

And by sending three Pixar movies straight to Disney Plus, Disney can also protect Pixar’s pristine reputation for reviews. and Box office success, some experts say: If Disney doesn’t put Pixar movies in theaters, they can’t have disappointing theatrical releases.

Some of Disney’s upcoming little movies have already been replaced by Disney Plus originals, skip theaters entirely. This strategy mainly applies to mid-budget films, including Pinocchio, a live-action remake starring Tom Hanks; a reboot of Peter Pan; Disenchanted, a sequel to Enchanted in which Amy Adams will reprise her role as princess; and Sister Act 3, reviving the comedy franchise about nuns.

But unlike those, Pixar’s Turning Red was previously intended for theatrical release. The film was on Disney’s schedule for a March 11 release in theaters for over a year.

“Given the late box office recovery, particularly for family movies, flexibility remains at the heart of our distribution decisions,” said Kareem Daniel, president of Disney’s Media and Entertainment Distribution business, in a statement on Turning Red.

Like the cuddly lead character in Pixar’s next adventure, the new standard for Disney movie releases is always changing shape.

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