Disney’s summer releases just went digital: Entertainment Weekly reports that the studio has announced it will debut films including Black Widow and Cruella on Disney+ (for an additional fee, usually $30) on the same day those films premiere in theaters. (Cruella premieres May 28, and Black Widow on July 9.) Disney tested the waters for this technique with Mulan last year and again in March with the release of Raya and the Last Dragon. Pixar’s Luca will forego a theatrical run and debut exclusively on Disney+ on June 18.
But as the U.S. inches closer to the promised vaccinated summer, this release strategy could further complicate relationships with theater chains—already vexed by the encroachment of streaming on their business. Last December, Warner Bros announced it would debut all its 2021 films simultaneously online and in theaters. Theater chains were not thrilled—and as the country moves toward reopening, their tolerance for such moves will likely diminish. It’s striking, for instance, Disney’s announcement happened to arrive on the same day that news broke that come 2022, Warner Bros. will begin releasing films with a 45-day theatrical window once more.