Why it matters: Government directives in response to Covid-19 have forced many theaters to close. Disney has chosen to simply release Onward for digital download and streaming on Disney+. While this may just be a temporary thing, one has to wonder if this will mean a radical shift in how movies are released in the future.
In an unprecedented move, Disney is releasing Onward for digital download tonight in the United States and will make it available for streaming on Disney+ on April 3rd. For perspective, Onward was just released on March 6th.
This move comes as many businesses are closing their doors to slow the spread of the coronavirus. AMC Theatres and Regal both announced that they're closing all of their theaters to comply with government directives concerning Covid-19. Additionally, NBCUniversal will make Universal Pictures films available for rent on the same day as their theatrical release.
A question that been brought up since these measures were taken is, are traditional movie theaters still necessary? More companies are starting their own streaming video services in response to the massive growth of established streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu. Streaming cable services like YouTube TV, Sling TV, and PlayStation Vue (R.I.P.), have made cutting the cord much easier.
There are plenty of logistics that happen between movie production and distribution to theater chains. However, what if movie studios could cut out the movie theaters altogether and simply distribute new movies directly to consumers through a streaming service that the studio owns?
Disney has already delayed the theatrical releases of Black Widow, Mulan, and The New Mutants due to coronavirus fears. Other major blockbusters such as Fast & Furious, A Quiet Place 2, and the latest James Bond installment, No Time to Die, have all been pulled as well.
What's to stop Disney, Universal, and MGM from simply premiering their respective movies on Disney+ or Netflix? It would save millions of dollars in marketing and distribution and allow consumers to watch from the safety of their home.
Practicing social distancing has meant that many things that would normally be done in person are being shifted online. Teleworking, online schooling, and grocery delivery may start becoming the norm the longer people are forced to stay indoors. Is Onward just the beginning of the end for traditional movie theaters or is the social interaction inherent with sharing a movie with hundreds of people still compelling?