Disney’s ‘Strange World’ Will Skip Theaters In France And Exhibitors Are Outraged
The Walt Disney Company and the Fédération Nationale des Cinémas Français (FNCF), the trade body for French exhibitors, are butting heads today after the former announced its upcoming feature Strange World won’t get a theatrical release in France.
Why is Disney sending Strange World straight to Disney+? In January, France announced a new and extremely strict set of rules for windowing. Under the new guidelines, Disney would have to wait four months after a film’s theatrical release to put it on video on demand, and 17 months before placing the film on streaming (which is actually an improvement from the previous window of 36 months). Additionally, five months after a title hits Disney+, the streamer must temporarily remove it to offer a 14-month window of exclusivity to free-to-air broadcasters. To avoid jumping through so many hoops, the studio will instead skip theatrical for Strange World altogether and release the film directly to the platform.
Is there a history here? In 2020, the FNCF reacted negatively when Disney sent Pixar’s Soul straight to Disney+, saying in a statement: “The theaters wish to share their immense frustration with regards to this decision, which is destructive to the entire sector,” and claiming Disney’s actions were “economically totally unjustified.”
What is Disney saying? In a statement, Disney explained: “Strange World will be available to all Disney+ subscribers in France, forgoing 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 putting 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.”
How has the FNCF responded? Speaking with Variety, an FNCF rep argued: “From what we understand, Disney is unhappy with the fact that they have to pull out their titles from their service to allow free-to-air channels to have their exclusive window, so what we are telling them is, ‘Instead of putting pressure on cinemas, please come and discuss with tv channels.’”
What’s next? Today, the FNCF invited Disney to attend meetings organized by France’s national film body, the CNC, to discuss ways to get Disney features back in French theaters. The organization also called on the French government to work on a timely solution to the problem and avoid turning spectators and exhibitors into victims of the dispute between the studio and the government.
What does this mean long-term? France’s windowing laws don’t only apply to Disney, so they could have far-reaching effects on other platforms as well. HBO Max and Paramount+ are planning to launch in France in the near future and there is a very real chance that the country’s windowing laws might force those platforms to follow Disney’s lead.