The tension between studios and cinema operators accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to send aftershocks through the industry. Having set an emergency precedent of Disney+ debuts with Pixar’s Soul and Luca followed up by Turning Red, Disney has decided to bypass the exhibition windows recently revised by France’s National Cinema Federation (FNCF) for it’s fall release, Strange World.
The studio adamently told Deadline on Tuesday that the sci-fi adventure from Walt Disney Animation Studios would be skipping French theaters altogether and going straight to Disney+. A spokesperson asserted, “While we support French cinema — and have for decades — the new, cumbersome media chronology is anti-consumer, ignoring how behavior evolved over the last several years, and puts us at increased risk for piracy.”
The studio noted that each film’s release in particular markets will be decided on a case by case basis.
The FNCF responded in firm protestations Wednesday to Disney’s “losing choice for everyone,” saying it would “seriously undermine the economy of cinemas and the sector as a whole.” The org decried the decision as “totally unacceptable and terribly unfair.”
The Federation has invited Disney to join in meetings organized by France’s National Center for Cinema and the Moving Image (CNC) to go over the January media chronology agreement. FNCF has also called for public authorities to help resolve the discord “by leading a conciliation between the stakeholders, and by avoiding making spectators and cinemas the collateral victims of these disputes.”
Under the windowing system updated as of February, Disney’s theatrical releases become available to French premium channel Canal+ after six months, but must wait 17 months after their cinema opening (shortened from 36 months) before hitting Disney+ for a limited period of five months. Then, at this 22-months-post-theatrical point, the movies must come back off Disney+ and run on free-to-air channels for a 14-month exclusive period, returning to Disney+ after 36 months.
In January, when the new timeline was announced, Disney stated that “the media chronology is not consumer friendly, nor does it establish a balanced or proportionate framework between the various players in the French audiovisual ecosystem,” adding the move was “especially frustrating” due to the studio’s increased investment in original French content.
Neither Disney or Prime Video operator Amazon signed the new agreement.