‘Strange World’ To Lose $147M: Why Theatrical Was Best Decision For Doomed Toon –Not Disney+– As Bob Iger Takes Over CEO From Bob Chapek
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Death, taxes and movies bombing the box office.
Such is life in Hollywood, and at the end of the day, the estimated $147 million loss expected for Disney Animation's Strange World is no milk spilled to cry for the entertainment conglomerate.
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The bombing of the Thanksgiving family title with a $28 million global opening in the face of Netflix's $13.3 million 5-day theatrical experiment with Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery has sparked discussions this weekend about what what really matters is theatrical and which is really ideal for streaming. There's no question Netflix is leaving money on the table with its over $400 million investment in the Knives Out franchise with a week-long theatrical run ahead of the Dec. 23 streaming drop.
However, Disney is no slouch when it comes to committing to a global theatrical release for Strange World, even if it's not full. which will debut on Disney+ around Christmas.
Why did Disney put a movie into theaters that they knew had poor viewer diagnostics and didn't stream? (I spoke to someone who saw Strange World in an early test screening in August and who felt Disney should have kept the film). Given its massive eyeballs on Disney+ and cult fandom, why hasn't Hocus Pocus 2 hit theaters? Why was Disenchanted, a sequel to a three-time Oscar-nominated, $340 million+ global hit, streamed?
Such questions will be easier to answer in the post-Bob Chapek-Kareem Daniels era. It's clear in Iger's move to put distribution and P&L decisions back in the hands of the studio's creative minds, the people who actually drive such products, an indication that smarter creative and financial decisions are afoot at the studio .
Disney hasn't commented on whether fewer films will go straight to Disney+ if Iger takes over. Industry sources anticipate that more expensive theatrical films will hit theaters and significantly lower budget films without much screen potential will find their way onto the service. No more opulent feature stunting to win subscribers is the feeling we're getting, which is a similar philosophy to that of Warner Discovery CEO David Zaslav when it comes to feature films and HBO Max. Disney's move to Iger and the departure of Chapek and Daniel is a sign to many that the entertainment conglom wants to sate Wall Street's appetite for profits from streamers, not subscriptions.
So if Disney knew Strange World was a dud with its troubled title, why not go straight to streaming?
Disney has released an animated family title about Thanksgiving in the past. That's what the audience expects. That alone is of significant reputational value for Disney and meets the needs of its fans. Had Disney pulled another film from theatrical releases and sent it to be streamed (a standard Chapek business move), especially around Thanksgiving, there would have been a big uproar at the exhibition and they've already had their fair share of beatings when they saw Mulan etc. ., from the release schedule, not to mention their controversial day-and-date experiment with Marvel's Black Widow, etc.
Had Strange World gone straight to Disney+, it would have been a PR nightmare for the studio, especially after Chapek's Florida swamp Don't Say Gay. A strict Disney+ release for Strange World would indicate that the Burbank, CA studio would release less and give less exposure to a major film with a gay character compared to a global theatrical release.
Additionally, a direct release of Strange World on Disney+ would be another slap in the face to its animation team, who for years have seen their life's work, intended for full cinemas, streamed i.e. H.Pixar's Soul. Turning Red, Luca and Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon. The return of Iger is also meant to boost Disney creatives' morale in the wake of the binary and pea-counting Chapek era, an executive who a former Disney Big Wig told me was a "Swiss Army (knife) of executives at the Company”, able to turn a profit in every department he managed.
While Netflix is sure to be heating up the December 23 release of "Knives Out 2," the real barometer of the picture's success on the service isn't in viewership, but in the retention and addition of subs directed by Rian Johnson after the release the sequel. What Netflix won't have financially upon the release of Glass Onion is solid home entertainment downstream revenue across global home entertainment, global free-to-air and pay-TV. Financial analysts tell Deadline that these ancillary services alone, including streaming revenue, should bring Strange World to nearly $90 million alone, and that's from a global B.O. Loss of $85 million WW and combined production and worldwide marketing costs of $274 million.
Funds not even counted on Strange World's Deadline income statement are the merchandising of the image and the actual cost Disney itself pays for licensing the image on Disney+. Yes, a huge failure for Disney for an original animated title. But it's the best worst-case scenario for the film financially.
Additionally, the overwhelming success of the Disney theatrical panel in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way of Water will more than make up for this lack of animation that Disney history has seen from time to time , including "Home on the Range," "Black Cauldron" and "Treasure Planet," a flop at the Thanksgiving box office in 2002 that opened at $16.5 million in five days in the US, made 38 $.1 million in US and $109.5 million in WW.
Hocus pocus 2
Then why didn't Disney go to the cinema with Hocus Pocus 2 and Disenchanted? Like the late Andy Rooney, I receive mail and have a letter from a rival studio exec who pointed fingers at me for attacking Universal's Halloween Ends day-and-date decision (which sells $64 million in the US). raked in dollars and opened well below forecasts) and Celebrate the record-breaking eyeball straight to the streaming success of Hocus Pocus 2, which could potentially have raked in a ton of bucks for exhibit in a fall when they were starving. Spot well struck, and at the end of the day, theater day and date and straight to streaming on potential blockbusters is a money-sucking, window-crushing affair, period.
What I've heard about Hocus Pocus 2 is that the film was always meant for Disney+ in terms of budget and talent pay. Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, Sean Bailey held a test screening and the film was tested through the ceiling. But given Daniel's decision, nothing could be done about a dynamic form of theatrical release either. Also, talent would need to be reversed for a theatrical release, and that was a route the studio didn't want to take. Note that when Hocus Pocus 2 got the green light during the pandemic, the return of female-distorted family moviegoers remained questionable, according to multiple tracking studies.
Amy Adams in Disenchanted
Disenchanted was meant to be theatrical. But because of the pandemic, it went straight to streaming. Ultimate viewer temperature on Amy Adams' sequel (56%) and even Hocus Pocus 2 (51%) indicated Disney was on the right track, particularly in terms of its under-tenpol budget. Perhaps as part of the newly reformed distribution creative restructuring, Hocus Pocus 3 and Enchanted 3 will go to theaters next time, as will High School Musical 3, which transitioned from television to the big screen and nearly $253 million WW grossing at $11 million brings in production costs.
During the Iger era, a former Disney exec told me that the studio has historically made its best and worst decisions when it comes to a film's ultimate fate. Let's hope distribution returns in the new Iger era.
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