A new deal with WarnerMedia and Cineworld Group, which operates Regal Theaters, says theatrical movies will get an exclusive cinema period before moving on to streaming.
Starting in 2022, Regal Theaters will get a 45-day exclusive window.
One slight change: Before the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. movie theaters had as much as a 90-day window before moving to different TV-centric windows: DVDs, streaming, single transactional TV viewing from pay TV providers, and other areas.
Last December, WarnerMedia made a bold decision: Its entire 2021 movie slate of 17 movies would running simultaneously on its streaming platform, HBO Max, and in theaters.
For its part, WarnerMedia prefaced this move -- perhaps overlooked by some from the business press -- that the decision was a only for 2021, leaving open the possibility of changes thereafter.
Disney continues to say it will adjust movie releases on a case-by-case basis -- some simultaneously (with a streaming surcharge), and some exclusive to Disney+ (no surcharge), some regular theatrical releases.
And even then, under the simultaneous release schedule, Disney takes a different tack -- where movies run on Disney+ and in theaters at the same time.
These films will have a $30 surcharge for streaming. This will include upcoming movies: The live-action film “Cruella” and Marvel Studios’ “Black Widow.”
Disney also offers streaming movies with no theatrical showings. This summer, it will release a Pixar Animation Studio movie “Luca” June 18 exclusively on Disney+ at no extra charge. This follows what the studio did for “Soul” over the holidays.
There are other more straightforward theatrical releases scheduled: “Free Guy” (August 13); “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (September 3); “The King’s Man” (December 22); “Deep Water” (January 14, 2022); and “Death on the Nile” (February 11, 2022).
Since December, movie producers, directors and critics have ripped into WarnerMedia for its controversial plan -- all that augur the theatrical movie business would see other studios join the trend.
Consider now that its somewhat under-the-radar deal with CineWorld -- and Disney’s continued individual movie-by-movie distribution plan -- are just muting reactions around a much more complicated TV and theatrical entertainment industry business -- one that may need to find more permutations.
And perhaps some more controversy too.