Disney's strategies are especially closely watched because of its enormous sway in the industry as the largest Hollywood studio. Disney accounted for 38% of domestic moviegoing in 2019. But its commitment to theatrical releases was sure to be a huge relief for cinema owners and a sign of some normality returning to moviegoing this fall.
Day-and-date releases proliferated during the pandemic while studios turned to boosting their in-home streaming services and compensating for diminished ticket sales. Theater owners have said that sacrifices many millions in box office and may deter from a movie's cultural impact.
And, lately, the box-office returns — even during the recent coronavirus surge — have been promising. Disney's “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” smashed the record for Labor Day openings last weekend, earning $90 million over the four-day weekend. Many in the industry have taken that as proof of the power of a theater-only release, and a positive sign for the fall movie season. Sony Pictures immediately after moved up the release of its Marvel sequel, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.”
“Following the tremendous box office success of our summer films which included five of the top eight domestic releases of the year, we are excited to update our theatrical plans for the remainder of 2021,” said Kareem Daniel, chairman of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, in a statement. “As confidence in moviegoing continues to improve, we look forward to entertaining audiences in theaters, while maintaining the flexibility to give our Disney+ subscribers the gift of ‘Encanto’ this holiday season.”