Disney is taking a stance versus the recently revised French windowing system, opting to bypass theatrical on animated action adventure Strange World in France and sending it directly to Disney Plus.
In a strongly-worded statement provided to Deadline, a studio spokesperson said: “Strange World will be available to all Disney+ subscribers in France, foregoing a French cinematic release. While we support French cinema — and have for decades — the new, cumbersome media chronology is anti-consumer, ignoring how behavior has evolved over the last several years and puts us at increased risk for piracy. We will continue to make decisions on a film-by-film basis and according to each market’s unique conditions.”
France updated its arcane windows back in January this year, shortening the span between theatrical and the market’s long-held 36-month SVOD waiting period, but Disney was not among the signatories of an agreement between TV channels, streamers and the film industry (nor was Amazon).
As it stands, Disney’s theatrical releases in France are made available for purchase four months after their debut. Under a long-standing output deal, they then become available to Canal Plus after six months. At 17 months, films head to Disney Plus for five months. At the 22-month mark, they come off the service and go to free-to-air channels for a 14-month exclusive period before reverting to Disney Plus after 36 months.
Believe it or not, this is the updated version of the rules which took effect in February. At the time, Disney issued the following reaction: “We believe 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. This is especially frustrating as we have been increasing our investment in the creation of original French content while also supporting French cinema through our theatrical releases.”
The major beneficiaries of the new measures that were revealed in January were Netflix and Canal Plus. The former now has access to films 15 months after their theatrical release — though the streamer does not typically release movies in cinemas. At the time, it committed to producing at least 10 local films per year, investing about 40M euros ($45M). Canal, for its part, had already reached a new agreement with French film industry organizations back in early December, as the pay-TV group said it would invest more than 600M euros ($679M) in local and European film across the next three years. The deal advanced the window for Canal, allowing it to offer films six months after their release in theaters, contrary to the previous eight-month delay.
France’s media chronology has long been a hot-button issue. It was theoretically conceived to protect exhibition and others in the chain. But given shifts in consumption, prescribed windows for studios that support theatrical are seen as incentivizing them to take movies direct to streaming. That’s something that ultimately shoots France in the foot since a portion of all theatrical ticket sales — including movies from the Hollywood studios — is funneled into a fund that supports local production.
What Disney will do on Strange World will be to bypass the system entirely, going straight to Disney Plus. We understand this will be in lockstep with the film hitting the service in other markets.
Strange World, whose trailer dropped on Monday (but not in France) is a theatrical release elsewhere, launching at Thanksgiving domestically. Directed by Don Hall (Big Hero 6, Raya And The Last Dragon) and co-director/writer Qui Nguyen (Raya And The Last Dragon), the movie journeys into an uncharted and treacherous land where fantastical creatures await the legendary Clades, a family of explorers whose differences threaten to topple their latest — and by far — most crucial mission. Roy Conli (Big Hero 6, Tangled) is producing.
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