December 10, 2020
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – What will Disney do? Hollywood is asking that question a week after AT&T Inc’s Warner Bros upended the film business by saying it would debut all of its 2021 movies on its HBO Max streaming service on the same day they hit theaters.
At a Thursday afternoon presentation to investors, Walt Disney Co executives are set to unveil what is next for Disney+, the Netflix Inc competitor it launched a year ago, and the company’s other streaming outlets.
Disney said in October it was restructuring the company to put more emphasis on streaming over traditional linear television to better meet customer demands. In addition to Disney+, the company offers Hulu and ESPN+, and next year will offer a streaming platform overseas under the Star brand.
Cinema chains including AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc, Cineworld Group and Cinemark Holdings Inc will be watching to see if Disney, the box-office leader last year, plans big changes to the slate of movies it has set for theaters.
Disney and other studios have already moved some films to streaming because the coronavirus pandemic has left many cinemas closed.
Hollywood trade publications have reported that Disney has considered shifting the release of live-action movies including “Pinocchio,” which stars Tom Hanks as Geppetto, as well as “Peter Pan & Wendy,” to Disney+ from theaters.
Media analyst Michael Nathanson said he expected Disney to announce significant increases in spending on streaming TV shows and movies, and to provide updated subscriber targets and profit goals.
A Disney spokesman had no comment ahead of the online presentation.
Disney+ sign-ups have already surpassed the company’s earlier projections.
In April 2019, the company had forecast that Disney+ would attract between 60 million and 90 million customers around the world by fiscal 2024. Last month, the company said it had already hit 74 million as of early October.
Disney+ has been boosted by the popularity of “The Mandalorian” TV series, a “Star Wars” spinoff featuring the character popularly known as Baby Yoda.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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