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Disney to Weigh Premier Access on ‘Film-by-Film Basis,’ Shang-Chi to Theaters Exclusively

Ben Bowman

What does the future hold for Disney films appearing on Disney+ via Premier Access?

Today, CEO Bob Chapek announced that the company would consider future offerings on a film-by-film basis to do what is in the “best interest of the film and the best interest of our constituents.”

Recently, viewers who wanted to see a film on Disney+ on the same day it debuts in theaters can pay $29.99 per title for the privilege. While the option appeals to families who may not want to face COVID in theaters or fork out a few hundred dollars for tickets and snacks, cost-sensitive subscribers may simply choose to wait 45 days to see these films included in their regular Disney+ subscription price.

Disney has some heavy hitters lined up for the remainder of the year, and the company seems prepared to experiment with its model. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” will come exclusively to theaters before bouncing to Disney+ 45 days later. “Being able to take a Marvel title to the service after going theatrical for 45 days will be another data point to inform our actions going forward on our titles,” Chapek said.

Chapek also said that “Free Guy” could not be sent to Premier Access due to previous agreements involving Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox.

Premier Access has been a mixed bag for Disney so far.

The first title offered, the live-action “Mulan,” was a disappointment. The product also stumbled with “Raya and the Last Dragon.” It’s estimated “Raya” pulled in 20% fewer PVOD purchases than “Mulan” in its opening weekend. An estimated 686,000 subscribers paid up to see Emma Stone’s “Cruella.”

Marvel fans paid up to see “Black Widow” at home, to the tune of $60 million, while “Jungle Cruise” earned $30 million in Premier Access sales in their opening weekend.

Disney is likely to compare the final results of “Black Widow” to those of “Shang-Chi” to see which approach is the most profitable. If the Premier Access strategy proves more lucrative, we might expect to see “The Eternals” available on Disney+ Premier Access the same day it hits theaters. If the theatrical model is more profitable, Premier Access could go away entirely. Chapek has previously said that Disney is not committed to Premier Access experiments beyond this year.

Disney has also rubbed its talent the wrong way with Premier Access. Pixar artists have been frustrated that “Soul” and “Luca” skipped Premier Access and went directly to Disney+, while Scarlett Johansson sued the company since her “Black Widow” payday was tied to box office performance, and that number was skewed because of the Premier Access option.

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