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Flexibility is the future of cinema exhibition, says Disney CEO Bob Chapek

Says hybrid, exclusive OTT releases will dominate cinema exhibitions.

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Mumbai: So how does the world of cinematic exhibition look like currently and how will it shape up beyond the pandemic? To get a perspective, let's take a look at how Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek sees it. Speaking at the JP Morgan media summit last week, Chapek summarised the future of cinema exhibition in a single word, ''flexibility.''

Chapek revealed that the Covid pandemic has redefined cinema exhibition, with customer behaviour changing due to the new normal. According to Chapek, ''flexibility'' plays a crucial role in determining the future of cinematic exhibition, where films will be either released in theatres with a short window before going the OTT way or a hybrid release mechanism where movies are streamed simultaneously in theatres as well as OTT platforms, distinct from exclusive OTT premieres. 

"We are looking at exclusive theatrical releases with a dramatically short window between the first and second offerings or a simultaneous theatrical premiere along with our Disney+ offering and our direct Disney+ premieres. We are trying to offer consumers more choices as they gain confidence in how they want to return to theatres. It helps us build our franchises. But as we have seen domestic box offices, it seems to be recovering in some markets. But we are seeing some hesitancy in returning to normal like back in 2019," said Chapek. 

Chapek added that shortening the theatrical window before OTT releases to 45 days was necessary as audiences are less patient to watch their favourite content. “We are celebrating the flexibility that we have gotten into. If you are a fan, six weeks is a long time. Six days, maybe, but consumers are driving for shorter windows. They have the power to take that call and we are a consumer-friendly company. We saw a lot of midnight fervour when new content was released on Disney plus. And that is the reason why we chose the 45-day theatrical window," revealed Chapek. 

Citing the example of Black Widow, he said big movies that demand a theatrical watch will be released on big screens, and also have a simultaneous OTT release that will allow people to enjoy the flick in the comfort and safety of their homes as well. 

"If it is a big tent pole theatrical franchise, fans tend to consume the film in theatres. For Black Widow, we had to give the theatrical exhibition a chance, but we didn’t put all our eggs in the same basket. We gave the consumers a choice; watch it in a theatre or in the safety of your homes. The theatrical marketplace will recover more fully, in time. Flexibility is a good thing," added Chapek.

Black Widow is one of the most anticipated Hollywood movies of the year, as it is the 24th installment in the much-celebrated Marvel Cinematic Universe. Starring Scarlett Johanssen in the lead role, the film will hit theatres on 09 July, along with a simultaneous Disney+ Premium streaming for US$30.  

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