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Disney CEO ‘Thrilled’ with Results of Bringing ‘Soul’ to Disney+, Keeping Flexibility For ‘Black Widow’

Jeff Kotuby

Disney+ has taken a different path than Warner Bros. in releasing their movies during COVID. While Warner Bros. is releasing all 2021 films on HBO Max, the same day they hit theaters – Disney has had some release on Disney+ at no extra cost, while others as a $29.99 Premier Access.

On Disney’s Q1 2021 financial results call, CEO Bob Chapek was asked about Disney+’s recent model of releasing feature films onto their digital platform and which system worked better — the free with subscription model we saw with Soul, or the “Premier Access” system seen with Mulan and the upcoming Raya and the Last Dragon.

Chapek’s response has us thinking about not just Disney films — but the upcoming Black Widow and other MCU releases as well.

Chapek said he was “thrilled” about the positive response Soul brought to Disney+, both in terms of customer acquisition and retention. “We thought that was a really nice thing to do for our subscriber base given the holiday,” Chapek said, “and given the fact that we have talked consistently about remaining flexible in terms of how we’re going to go ahead and put our titles out into the marketplace.”

Soul was released in time for Christmas Day and scored the top spot in Nielsen’s streaming rankings from December 21-27.

In regards to Mulan, Chapek chalked it up as a learning experience in what to do going forward, specifically with Raya and the Last Dragon.

When addressing how they’ll decide which films will go to Premier Access and others straight to Disney+, Chapek said it would be, “dependent on what our slate of titles are and whether we think we need to put something on the service for particular guests, or whether this is something that we could use as another data point in our exploration of Premier Access. It is really about flexibility.”

When asked about the upcoming Black Widow, originally planned as a 2020 theatrical release, Chapek doubled down on the idea of “flexibility.”

“We made a reference at the investor conference that Black Widow was going to be a theatrical release,” he said. “We are still intending it to be a theatrical release. But we are going to be watching the re-opening of theaters and the consumer sentiment in terms of the desire to go back to theaters to see whether that strategy needs to be revisited. We’ll be watching very, very carefully.”

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