Regardless of how much you buy into Disney+ and Premier Access, it seems the model is something Disney wants to carry forward with future releases. Not least of all because they’ve got Apple, Google and Roku as payment partners for Mulan when it launches on the service.
In this article, I want to go and explain what movies I think will make a Premier Access debut, why I think they will, and when they will.
Black Widow (20 Nov 2020)
Black Widow is arguably Disney’s most anticipated movie of this year. With its release date pushed back, however, it also shifted a lot of the MCU. Now, it’s looking like we may not even get it this year as a theatrical release because 6 November is quickly approaching and I would hope that Americans making the decision to go out and vote would choose that over a cinema venture. The most confusing thing about Black Widow‘s new release date is the fact that they chose November, effectively the slot reserved for The Eternals (now shifted to February 2021).
They chose this date and it resulted in a complete push-back of every other Marvel Studios property, which speaks a little bit to the timeline (but that’s a story for another article).
Before they chose this date, it was common knowledge that Disney+ was launching in Latin America (LatAm) in November. Incidentally, the demand for Black Widow is very very high in LatAm’s largest market, Brazil. So, I think they’ll launch Black Widow via Premier Access on the Friday after the service launches in LatAm, meaning Friday, 20 November 2020.
Why would they launch it via Premier Access and not just push the date back again? If you’re a fan of the MCU, you’ll know how interconnected it all is. If you aren’t a fan of the MCU, you’ll probably still know how interconnected it all is purely on the basis that a change in Black Widow‘s release date meant everything got pushed back. If they were to push back its release once more, they would have to delay all the Disney+ shows, and future movies such as The Eternals, Shang-Chi and maybe even Spider-Man 3 (but that’s distributed by Sony, so maybe it would be safe). I think Disney would choose to release it on Disney+ in November, and get an influx of memberships from that, over potentially losing out on future recurring billing by sticking to its theatrical release window.
Soul (25 December 2020 or January 2021)
Merry Christmas! Or, not so merry. I think that Soul is also likely to get a Premier Access release because of one reason: the 2021 Academy Awards. Out of all the sectors of film and television impacted most by COVID-19, animation has been the least affected. That said, no matter how little the process has been disturbed, it says nothing to the actual release of the movies. The Academy changed their requirements and made it so that movies which would have had a “bona fide” theatrical release, but instead got pushed to streaming, would still be eligible for consideration.
Pete Docter’s latest work is almost a shoo-in for Best Animated Feature, and it’s likely that the mechanics for Premier Access were in place long before the release dates were shifted. In saying that, Soul‘s current theatrical release date is 20 November 2020, which competes directly against the new Bond film.
I think the most likely release date for Soul via Premier Access is 25 December 2020, because Disney doesn’t have a Christmas title for the service. With that said, however, they are set to launch WandaVision in December 2020 so it may be that they want to spread out the release of their originals, in which case the alternative date would be sometime in January 2021.
The Academy moved their 2021 awards to April and thus extended the deadline for consideration by 2 months, so I could see Disney ending January 2021 with a huge title like Soul to stay in the minds of the voters.
The number one thing I learned through 5 years of law school is that the answer to almost any question is: that depends. There are a lot of moving parts here, and the answer to that question depends on whether it is safe enough for production to resume, and to what extent. For a series like Loki, it may be safe to resume production relatively quickly; whereas, for a huge movie like Thor: Love and Thunder, it may be a little while before hundreds of people can safely congregate in small spaces.
Do I think Disney will make a habit of releasing huge movies via Premier Access? Certainly, because they would not invest hundreds of thousands to millions in developing a platform for just one movie. The fact that they’ve given it a name and set up payment platforms with a number of partners is indicative of its future. But, I also think that Disney needs to work its system out a little better. By all means, have the option for Premier Access, but also distribute it in theatres. If this were any other company, it would be a lot more difficult to say, but it’s Disney. If they told theatre chains that they want to do this, they’d be able to work something out for sure.
Do you agree? Do you disagree? Would you pay the Premier Access fee for either of the movies above? Is there anything else you’d like to see available for purchase? Let me know in the comments!