Disney is refusing to release their animated action-adventure “Strange World” in French theatres, instead sending it directly to Disney+ subscribers in France.
Tensions between studios and cinema operators remain, as the aftershocks from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt.
Now the latest drama is over “Strange World”, one of the most anticipated Disney+ releases of the year.
“While we support French cinema — and have for decades — the new, cumbersome media chronology is anti-consumer, ignoring how behaviour has evolved over the last several years and puts us at increased risk for piracy,” said a studio spokesperson to Deadline.
France has been attempting to prevent streaming services form undermining its large cinema network and television stations that fund many of its films.
The National Federation of French Cinemas said it “protested with the greatest vigour against Disney’s desire to deprive the French of their Christmas animated film”.
Helene Etzi, president of Disney France called the French rules “unfair, restrictive, and ill-adapted to public demands.“
France’s regulations require a 17-month period between a film’s theatrical release and its debut on a streaming platform.
That first VOD window is limited to just five months then the film shifts to a 14-month exclusive free-TV window.
Only then, a full 36 months after its theatrical debut, can the movie move back to Disney+.
The debate over how long to wait between theatrical and streaming releases has also been heated in Hollywood, though much shorter delays are considered there.
The average window is around 45 days between the theatrical release and streaming release in most territories worldwide.
Disney will now be bypassing that long wait in France entirely by going straight to Disney+, with a theatrical release elsewhere in November.
The big question for French consumers is what will happen to other major productions.
So far, no other Disney blockbusters have been pulled from French theatres.
“We continue to assess the situation film by film and country by country,” said Disney’s Etzi.