Source: China State Council Information Office 3
The Walt Disney Company has revealed ambitious next steps in its global streaming expansion at its 2020 Investor Day, though the streaming platform is yet to reach the Chinese mainland where fans are still eager to see blockbusters at cinemas.
It was announced that the Chinese-inspired superhero story “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” will debut in North America on July 9, 2021. The film, which has wrapped up filming and entered post-production, is the first Marvel superhero film with an almost entirely Asian cast, including some of Chinese descent in the leading roles, such as Liu Simu, Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh.
The Shang-Chi film is one of three Marvel superhero episodes that will hit theaters in 2021. The other two are “Black Widow,” with a release date set for May 7, 2021, and “The Eternals” on Nov. 5.
There are also a host of new feature films revealed for the period beyond next year: “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” “Fantastic Four,” “Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness,” “Thor: Love and Thunder,” “Black Panther 2,” “Blade,” “Captain Marvel 2” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”
And for the Disney+ platform, there are lots of more. Marvel Studios shared plans for the expansion and future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 10 Marvel series. Among dozens of upcoming projects, three new series for Disney+ were revealed, including “Secret Invasion,” “Ironheart” and “Armor Wars.” These will join the robust lineup of Disney+ titles such as “WandaVision,” “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier,” “Loki” and the animated series “What If…?”
Besides superheroes, Disney will release approximately 10 titles in the Star Wars series, the 15 Disney live action, Disney Animation and Pixar series, as well as 15 all-new Disney live action, Disney Animation and Pixar features on its streaming service Disney+, over the next few years.
All these plans were announced by the company at its 2020 Investor Day on Dec. 10. The new titles include the fifth Indiana Jones film, “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” “Rogue Squadron” and “The Little Mermaid.” A live-action prequel to “The Lion King,” “Raya and the Last Dragon,” “Pinocchio,” “Sister Act 3,” “Luca” and “Lightyear” have already begun to arouse expectations among excited fans.
In total, the entertainment giant has said it plans to release at least 100 new titles per year on Disney+.
As of Dec. 2, the company’s portfolio of direct-to-consumer (DTC) services has exceeded 137 million global paid subscriptions, including 11.5 million ESPN+ subscribers, 38.8 million Hulu subscribers and 86.8 million Disney+ subscribers since its launch in November 2019, the entertainment giant said.
Speaking at the virtual event on Dec. 10, Bob Chapek, chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, said: “The tremendous success we’ve achieved across our unique portfolio of streaming services, with more than 137 million subscriptions worldwide, has bolstered our confidence in acceleration toward a DTC-first business model.
“With our amazing creative teams and our ever-growing collection of the high-quality branded entertainment that consumers have shown they want, we believe we are incredibly well positioned to achieve our long-term goals.”
The Walt Disney Company now expects its streaming services to hit 300-350 million total subscriptions by fiscal 2024, driven primarily by a significant increase in content output.
Disney also shared further details of its new general entertainment content brand Star to be included as part of Disney+ in select international markets, including China’s Hong Kong.
The company said the Star brand will serve as home to thousands of hours of television and movies from Disney’s creative studios, including Disney Television Studios, FX, 20th Century Studios, 20th Television, and more, enhanced by the addition of local programming from the regions where available.
Disney+ will be updated to include the Star brand on Feb. 23, 2021 in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The streaming service will continue its global rollout, now with Star, in new markets beginning with Singapore also on Feb. 23, followed by Eastern Europe, South Korea, Japan, and China’s Hong Kong later in 2021.
However, there is still no mention about if Disney+ or Star having plans for the Chinese mainland in coming years. Part of Disney’s contents now still debut on various China’s own video streaming platforms.
Disney has dominated the global box office in recent years. The company grossed around $13 billion last year. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to devastate the film industry worldwide, Hollywood studios are trying to survive the crisis with new movie releases and look to online streaming for solutions.
For example, Warner Bros. Pictures announced earlier this month the release of all its 2021 films on a streaming service and in theaters at the same time, threatening the survival of theaters and irritating theater bosses, collaborative partners and studios. Disney said it will premier some blockbusters in theaters exclusively in the coming years, while others will move online.
Chinese fans could be the lucky ones to see more Disney films in theaters as China, currently the biggest global market, has almost fully recovered and been functioning by effectively controlling and beating the coronavirus.
However, once the streaming contents are available, no matter if they are online series or big-budget theatrical releases, studios are facing the severe risks of immediate pirated downloads that will ruin box office potential. So far, the issues have not been effectively addressed by studios worldwide.