Disney Releasing ‘Eternals’, ‘Encanto’ & More Exclusively In Theatres

Disney has announced on Friday that its upcoming 2021 films — ‘Eternals’, The Last Duel’, ‘West Side Story’, ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ and ‘The King’s Man’ will get exclusive 45-day theatrical windows before moving to digital platforms.

According to Variety, meanwhile, the animated musical ‘Encanto’ will play in theatres for 30 days from November 24, before moving to Disney+. The decision is a clear win for Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige, who has been vocal both internally and in the press about his desire for Marvel’s feature films to play exclusively in theatres.

‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’, Marvel’s first exclusive theatrical release in more than two years, has grossed USD 105.9 million domestically through Wednesday.

While that is on the lower end of grosses for MCU features, it also means ‘Shang-Chi’ is already outpacing the theatrical grosses of ‘Black Widow’, which had earned USD 100.7 million at that point in its theatrical run after opening in July day-and-date on Disney+ Premier Access.

That makes ‘Shang-Chi’ one of the best performing theatrical releases of the pandemic era and practically an existential boon for exhibitors in desperate need of some good news.

Prior to the release of ‘Shang-Chi’, Disney executives had been putting off deciding whether to open ‘Eternals’ day-and-date.

In an earnings call in August, CEO Bob Chapek rather famously referred to the 45-day exclusive theatrical release of ‘Shang-Chi’ as “an interesting experiment for us,” all but saying that the theatrical performance of that movie — which opened as the delta variant continues to drive up COVID infections — would determine how the studio elected to move forward with its theatrical strategy in 2021.

Now, ‘Eternals’ will debut in theatres exclusively on November 5.

The 30-day theatrical window for ‘Encanto’ is a different kind of experiment, giving Disney the opportunity to draw box office grosses over the Thanksgiving holiday into December, before shifting the film direct to Disney+ for Christmas holiday viewing.

“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.

“As confidence in moviegoing continues to improve, we look forward to entertaining audiences in theatres, while maintaining the flexibility to give our Disney+ subscribers the gift of ‘Encanto’ this holiday season,” Daniel added.

As for Disney’s slate of 20th Century Studios features — ‘The Last Duel’ on October 15, ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ on October 22, ‘West Side Story’ on December 10 and ‘The King’s Man’ on December 22 — the studio had no choice but to commit to exclusive theatrical runs, in order to honour a 10-year output deal 20th Century Fox signed with HBO in 2012.

Notably, Disney’s announcement stipulated that its live-action slate (and ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’) will play in theatres alone for “a minimum” of 45 days, giving the studio leeway to extend the theatrical run of its movies should they prove to be runaway hits.

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