Disney Moves 3 Films to Disney+, But ‘Black Widow’ Will Still Open in Theaters

“Raya and the Last Dragon” is getting a day-and-date release, but Disney commits a new Pixar film to a summer theatrical release

final black widow trailer scarlett johansson natasha romanoff
Marvel Studios

Disney made some significant changes to its 2021 theatrical release plans during its investor presentation on Thursday, but stopped short of the seismic shakeups Warner Bros. made last week as Marvel Studios’ “Black Widow” did not join the three films that will be bypassing cinemas for release on Disney+. Two of the films moved were installments in Disney’s remake series that weren’t expected to be tentpole releases: David Lowery’s “Peter Pan & Wendy” and Robert Zemeckis’ “Pinocchio.” The studio also announced that the original animated film “Raya and the Last Dragon” will be released day-and-date on both theaters and premium video on-demand on March 12, a date Disney had moved the film to earlier this fall as U.S. theaters continued to struggle under the weight of the pandemic. But the films that theaters have been holding their breath over are staying put. “Black Widow,” the next theatrical installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is still set to arrive in cinemas on May 7, in keeping with Marvel’s tradition of an early May release that kicks off the summer box office. Fellow MCU films “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Eternals” are also staying in their respective release slots on July 9 and November 5, while 20th Century Studios’ “West Side Story” is sticking to a Christmas 2021 release. On top of that, Disney added to its 2021 theatrical slate with an original Pixar film, “Luca,” which is set for release on June 18. Disney’s film strategy for next year is notably different from Warner Bros., which is moving all 17 of its 2021 films to a day-and-date strategy in both theaters and HBO Max. While the move has angered many theater execs as well as some production studios like Legendary, Warner insiders have told TheWrap that a major factor in the decision was uncertainty over exactly when theaters will be able to reopen nationwide as questions still hang over the logistics of distributing the COVID-19 vaccine. Current projections have the U.S. vaccinating the majority of the population by April, and distributors and theater execs have told TheWrap that they hope for a slow but steady resumption of theatrical releases over the course of Q2. While the move of “Raya” to day-and-date is consistent with the general belief in Hollywood that normalcy is still months away, “Black Widow” is for now still set as one of the first blockbusters that will try to entice the public back to cinemas, while the new release strategy for “Raya” could provide an early gauge on moviegoer confidence in theaters should the vaccine be available for the public by that time.
Read more about Disney’s big investor day announcements here.

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