October 25, 2020

Disney forgets movie theaters in times of coronavirus


One in three people who went to the movies in 2019 did it to see a movie disneY. The Californian empire had managed to almost completely colonize the box office after buying Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel. But everything changed with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic. The entertainment industry had to measure its economic efforts and stop filming and investments. To this day, cinemas are still blockbusters that act as a catalyst for the collective interest.

Mickey Mouse already has the Infinity Stones: one in every three movies seen in the world belongs to Disney

Mickey Mouse already has the Infinity Stones: one in every three movies seen in the world belongs to Disney

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Warner Bros has dared to release Tenet, the only big budget movie in recent months, while saving Wonder Woman 1984 Y Dune by December with the intention of saving the furniture this year. For its part, Universal has decided that James Bond: no time to die opens next year, and 20th Century Studios has tried their luck with The new mutants, but retains The French Chronicle by Wes Anderson – currently no release date – and delays The King’s Man: The First Mission, also until 2021.

And Disney? After the online premiere of Mulan, just announced that Soul, the new and long-awaited Pixar film, will not go through theaters either. What’s more: Bob Chapek, executive director of the entertainment giant announced last Monday that the company is going to undergo a severe reconfiguration whose objective is simple: to enhance the online exhibition window. Disney + will be the priority of future studio moves. Video On Demand —VOD from now on— continues to gain ground over conventional movie theaters: a trend that the pandemic has accentuated.


The queen of the box office, towards the throne of VOD

“This is just an evolution of what we have already done. Given the success so far, we want to further accelerate our transition to a direct-to-consumer model,” said Bob Chapek in a Los Angeles Times report published in light of the company’s decision to bet on VOD.

After several delays since its scheduled date in March, Disney chose to release Mulan on its own platform. It was him live-action expected from the factory after the success of The Lion King, but its online premiere generated controversy in the sector: it could not be seen by anyone who already paid Disney +, because it was not included in their subscription.

Mulan It arrived in Spain at the beginning of September through a launch in a ‘premium subscription’ format, for a price of 21.99 euros. A price that many industry players considered exorbitant for something that would be seen on a home device, not in a conventional movie theater.

“The surcharge is justified by the need, from the outset, to amortize the production”, explains Elena Neira, expert in cinematographic distribution and author of Streaming Wars: The New Television (Dome Books) to elDiario.es. “At a lower price (or charging it directly to the cost of the subscription) the numbers do not come out. The large productions are designed (and economically sized) for their premiere on the big screen. And Mulan it was one of the great releases of the company for this summer “.

The also professor at the Open University of Catalonia believes that “Disney’s strategy is interesting: premiere in theatrical [salas convencionales] in those countries where the platform is not yet available and premiere directly on Disney + where it is. ”

“If of the 60 million subscribers who now have contracted the platform decide to rent it 10% at that price, they would get, from the outset, more than 200 million (an amount that could well cover the production costs). above those margins will be profit. In addition, promotional investment in Mulan is less than that of a regular premiere, since here direct consumer campaigns (through newsletters or in online media) are the ones that are monopolizing the shares “.

To this day, we do not know for sure if the premiere of Mulan It has turned out to be a failed experiment, but we do know that it sets the direction to follow: a few days ago the mouse company announced that Soul, the new Pixar movie, to premiere directly on Disney +. This time, however, it will go into subscription and those who already pay for the platform will not have to pay a single euro more. Something that can give a clue of yes to Mulan the numbers will have come out or not.


In times of pandemic, streaming He is the king

“Without a doubt the sector of the streaming has been the great beneficiary of the confinement, “explains Elena Neira.” With cinemas and other shows on hold, digital entertainment became the first option for households that not only increased the number of hours spent watching video online but also the number of platforms to which they were registered. And taking into account that the total normalization of what we could understand as competition (such as movie premieres and other cultural activities) has not yet taken place, I think we can still expect good results for them. ”

By weight, and according to Forbes magazine, as of September 2020, Netflix was still the undisputed queen of VOD platforms with 183 million subscribers worldwide. A figure that reached during the pandemic, since the company doubled the number of subscribers in key markets such as North America. The big red N is followed by HBO with 140 million subscribers and Amazon Prime Video with 150, although Bezos’s company data is not entirely reliable because Prime Video is a service included in Amazon Prime.

And in Spain? According to him latest report of the National Commission of Markets and Competition four out of every 10 households with Internet consume audiovisual content on paid online platforms such as Netflix or HBO. But in terms of leadership, and according to available data, the current queen of the home market is Movistar +, which in 2019 had 2.2 million users, thus reaching 13.4% of the market for Internet audiovisual content consumption. A reign that it holds largely because its share derives from the fact that it also provides fixed telephone, mobile, Internet and television services.

Audiovisual content is just one more branch of business for Telefónica. But Spanish platforms like Filmin or Flixolé registered an increase in subscriptions and reproductions during the first months of the pandemic. According to Neira, Spain thus joins “what is a global trend: online markets have become the ideal place to sell products that, under current conditions, could not have a solvent distribution.”

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