The Eternals and the new Disney distribution: is VIP Access dead?

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The Eternals And Shang-Chi they seem to want to change Disney’s distribution direction. From an initial dichotomy in the moment of global expansion six years ago, the relationship between cinema and online streaming has not so slowly transformed into a real dualism, putting these two fundamental “models” of the Seventh Art in close correlation. A coexistence in the market is not always pleasant due to reciprocal structural elements practically the opposite, as if cinema and streaming were a bit mythical Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in The Odd Couple. After deep and apparently incurable divergences, the two models have found over time an efficient compromise to coexist more or less in serenity, with the room increasingly open to mainstream and big blockbusters and streaming at the same time discount for the entire cinematographic alphabet. but also a new home of great authors.

The union went dormant when the most famous brands in the sector began to desire a better defined double life, between theaters and streaming (we can think for example of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman or even al Rome by Alfonso Cuaron) and especially watching Netflix. However, this did not in any way damage the success of mainstream cinema at the cinema, thinking in particular about cinecomics. Marvel Studios, practically the towed beast of an increasingly complex wagon to move. This, at least, up to Cate Shortland’s Black Widow, long promised by Kevin Feige and Bob Chapek in an exclusive release for the cinema and then finally distributed in hybrid mode for two days only at the cinema and then in VIP access on Disney +, in streaming. And before that happened, we had asked ourselves the question: what would happen if even the most mainstream titles started to somehow exclude the theater?

Eternals as a Disney litmus test

The answer came last July with Black Widow. Unlike previous Artemis Fowl (here the review of Kenneth Branagh’s disastrous Artemis Fowl), Cruella with Emma Stone And Raya and the Last Dragonin fact, the cinecomic starring Scarlett Johansson was the first film to receive an actual double release both at the cinema and on Disney +, and this thanks to the reopening of the theaters en masse thanks to the efficiency of the worldwide vaccination campaign.

It is therefore important to why running in a distribution model which could have become the main one not only for the various Disney live-action and Pixar or similar products, but also for the Marvel Studios cinecomics. But it didn’t go well at all.
Putting aside the obvious talk of facilitating piracy, Black Widow had to contend with a capacity threshold reduced by 50% required by the anti-contagion regulations, in practice a more than certain halving of the boxoffice receipts. In addition, the streaming release was subject to an additional cost outside the subscription (VIP Access, in fact), a reason that obviously prompted the vast majority of spectators casul viewers to choose the cheapest way of the room (only once) or directly to wait for the arrival of the film on Disney + without further additional expenses. All these contributing causes have resulted Black Widow to close its box office run with just 372 million of dollars collected all over the world, in addition to a only discreet response in VIP access via streaming, essentially making the distribution model described above not functional to the intentions of the company, or at least not for the cinecomic Marvel Studios, the main source of income of the company.

With Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings we have returned only to the cinema: exclusive release in theaters and after exactly 45 days directly on Disney + by subscription and without extras. Always keeping in mind the 50% capacity and a whole series of problems still related to the Coronavirus Pandemic, Destin’s amazing cinecomic Daniel Cretton (here the review of Shang-Chi) has grossed in this perspective and with this new distribution the beauty of 256 million dollars in the first week of programming.

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The character is also a new entry in the MCU compared to the well-known Black Widow by Scarlett Johansson, then inserted in what is in effect an origin story that should tend to earn less than a product or a now well-known and loved character. (and expected, also given the various postponements).

In short, the model seems to work very well for Marvel titles, but it is still too early to tell. This is also known at Disney, since for the highly anticipated Eternals by Chloe Zhao it was decided to continue on this path, favoring the exclusive cinematic release over streaming (but it will also be the same for The King’s Man, The Last Duel and West Side Story).

Being the film of the highest commercial importance among all, Fr.roprio Eternals will be the proverbial litmus test for Disney to understand if this distribution model is in fact the most efficient, in a world and in a market where it is now necessary to consider hall and streaming in the same way, both being important for the survival of the Seventh Art in every possible facet of genre . Even the characters transposed to the big screen by Zhao they are in fact newcomers to the MCU and – moreover – framed in an extremely authorial context with an almost independent flavor, which makes them something very different from the cinecomics seen so far within Marvel productions, even risky if we want. Understanding how the public and consequently the world box office will respond to the film distributed exclusively in cinemas for an entire month and a half will allow Disney to carefully evaluate the model in question, whether to make it the main one, one and only, or continue to modify it until you find the most appropriate squaring of the circle for the current needs of the market.

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