The future of the MCU might look… smaller
Bob Chapek, the CEO of Marvel-parent company Disney, recently announced a major structural reorganization at the House of Mouse, with an intent to zero in with laser focus on streaming. The moves could potentially mean major changes for the MCU, the biggest film franchise in history.
“Given the incredible success of Disney+ and our plans to accelerate our direct-to-consumer business, we are strategically positioning our Company to more effectively support our growth strategy and increase shareholder value,” Chapek said in a statement.
“Managing content creation distinct from distribution will allow us to be more effective and nimble in making the content consumers want most, delivered in the way they prefer to consume it.”
Chapek clarified during a chat with Closing Bell that, despite the obvious appearance, the shift in focus was not exactly a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic which has blown up every aspect of the film and television industry throughout this year.
“I would not characterize it as a response to COVID,” Chapek said. “I would say COVID accelerated the rate at which we made this transition, but this transition was going to happen anyway” (via CNBC).
The MCU might take an even more serialised approach
Long before Disney+ even launched, it was announced that the streamer would be home to exciting original MCU content in the form of a slate of limited series produced by Marvel Studios, which produces the movies (as opposed to the essentially defunct Marvel Television, which had previously fielded the MCU’s TV content).
These series will feature the familiar stars of the films, and will tie more directly into upcoming features than any of the MCU’s previous television offerings — such as Netflix’s Marvel shows and ABC’s recently-ended Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — ever did.
Originally, three series were announced prior to the launch of Disney+: Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, and Loki. Post-launch, Disney announced a whopping five more: Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, She-Hulk, and Nick Fury.
This bears out Chapek’s assertion that the studio was already leaning in the direction of a tighter focus on streaming even before COVID. It could also be seen as a leading indicator that we should expect more limited series to come down the pipeline, or that any number of the already-announced series will evolve into multi-season serials.
While the most obvious potential ramifications of Disney’s organizational shift have to do with the future of those series, it stands to reason — especially given the precarious state of the theatrical exhibition industry in the U.S. — that the shift might have an impact on Marvel’s upcoming slate of features, as well.
If so, it’s not particularly tough to parse out what that might look like — since Disney has already given us a model for how a major feature film might be released direct-to-streaming.
Could some Marvel features follow the Mulan model?
As it now stands, both of the MCU films originally slated for release in 2020 — Black Widow and Eternals — are still slotted for 2021 theatrical releases. As for Pixar’s 2020 movies, Onward managed to secure a theatrical run in advance of the full brunt of the pandemic before getting an early release to Disney+.
Soul — originally slated for theatrical release in November — will now drop directly to the streamer on Christmas Day. However, it’s Disney’s other major 2020 release — the live-action remake of Mulan — which might have given us a glimpse of a potential release model for some future Marvel movies.
Mulan, a $200 million picture which received a massive first-quarter advertising push, was offered as a “premium” selection that Disney+ subscribers could enjoy at home for a $30 fee. While Disney has not yet released any sales figures for Mulan as of this writing, industry estimates suggest that between its VOD total and its international theatrical release, Mulan is on track to rough break-even (via Forbes).
Not exactly a rousing success, but it’s safe to say that the MCU comes with a significantly larger built-in audience, so it might be enough of a proof of concept for Marvel Studios to consider experimenting with a direct-to-consumer model.
It’s all speculation for now, but we imagine it won’t take too long before we see what Disney’s shift toward streaming will look like for the average consumer, and for the MCU’s millions of fans. We’ll be on the lookout for more details, and we’ll report them as they become available.