Pixar's 'Soul' bypasses theaters, will stream on Christmas

NEW YORK (AP) - The Pixar movie "Soul" will skip the cinemas and instead premiere on Disney + at Christmas, the Walt Disney Co. announced on Thursday, streaming one of the last big films of the fall directly.
The move, widely anticipated after the recent exodus of most of the major upcoming releases, marks one of the last dominoes to fall in Hollywood's disastrous fall. After the James Bond film "No Time to Die" left November, Warner Bros. is the next big movie on the calendar. "Wonder Woman 1984", currently discontinued December 25th.
The successive delays in the film industry's potential blockbusters have only exacerbated the dire circumstances of cinemas. Earlier this week, Cinemark announced that it would once again close its Regal movie theater locations in the US and the UK, the country's second largest theater chain.
On Thursday, the National Association of Theater Owners, the exhibitor trade group, said their #SaveYourCinema campaign flooded Congress with more than 300,000 letters. Filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and director of Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins, have joined the lobby convention to provide financial relief for theater owners. Without help, the organization said 69% of small and medium-sized cinema companies will close or go bankrupt.
"The dire reality is that many cinemas cannot reopen unless they receive government aid," says Esther Baruh, the association's director of government relations. "This is as urgent as it gets."
Soul is available free of charge to Disney + subscribers. Last month, Disney directed "Mulan" to its streaming service of more than 60 million subscribers but charged $ 30 for early access.
Disney was hit hard by the pandemic. It was recently announced that 28,000 workers would be laid off, most of them at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, activist investor Daniel Loeb, founder of the Third Point hedge fund, wrote to Disney boss Bob Chapek asking the company to more than double its content streaming budget.
Expectations for "Soul" had been high, directed by Pete Docter, Pixar's chief creative officer and filmmaker behind "Up" and "Inside Out". The film about a middle school teacher (Jamie Foxx) who dreams of becoming a jazz musician originally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The cinema release was planned for November 20th.
"The world can be a stressful and frustrating place - but it is also full of unexpected joys, even in seemingly mundane things," Docter said in a statement. "'Soul' explores what's really important in our lives, a question we all ask ourselves these days. I hope it will bring some humor and fun to people if everyone can be sure of that."
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Follow AP film writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyle

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