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Disney pulls a Warner Bros, sets 'Black Widow' for simultaneous release

In a blow to cinemas, it has pushed back the release dates of several films.

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NEW DELHI: Taking a cue from rival Warner Bros, media & entertainment behemoth Disney has set its highly anticipated MCU outing Black Widow for a simultaneous release in cinema halls and on its premium streaming service, Disney+ Premier Access for an additional cost. After interminable delay due to the Covid2019 pandemic, Black Widow, which was initially supposed to come out last May, will now hit the big and small screen on 9 July.

With this announcement, Disney has also revealed its upcoming film Cruella will follow the same strategy, coming to theatres as well as Disney+ (via Premier Access) on 28 May. Also, Pixar’s animated movie Luca will now be skipping the silver screen and debut exclusively on Disney+ on 18 June.

The release dates of several other movies have also been pushed back – Ryan Reynolds-starrer Free Guy will now come to cinemas on 13 August, another MCU film Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is set for 3 September, while The King’s Man will drop on 22 December. The Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas thriller Deep Water will now come out on 14 January 2022 instead of its August release; Death on the Nile, the film adaptation of the Agatha Christie mystery featuring an ensemble case, is coming next 11 February, instead of this September. 

While Marvel fans may be rejoicing at this piece of good news, the mouse house's decision to defer six of its big-ticket releases comes as a blow to cinemas, which have been struggling ever since the pandemic-induced lockdowns. Moreover, the simultaneous digital release of some of these movies will undoubtedly impact theatres in terms of ticket and concession sales, while boosting the already rising fortunes of Disney+.

Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution chairman Kareem Daniel said the move “reflects our focus on providing consumer choice and serving the evolving preferences of audiences.”

It may be recalled that last year, Disney's Mulan released exclusively on Disney+ and subscribers had to shell out an additional $30 access fee to watch it. After the fact, Walt Disney Co boss Bob Chapek had been cagey about the revenues Mulan netted, though he pronounced himself "pleased" with its performance.

The pandemic has forced Disney and other entertainment companies to shift gears and recalibrate their business strategies. In December 2020, to the dismay of many industry stakeholders, WarnerMedia dramatically boosted the profile of its HBO Max streaming service when it announced that 17 movies — the entire 2021 Warner Bros slate — would be available to subscribers at the same time as cinema audiences.

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