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Disney May Move Even More Movies Out of Theaters

By Daniel B. Kline – Apr 8, 2020 at 8:39AM

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"Artemis Fowl" is being moved to Disney+.

Walt Disney (DIS 4.44%) has pulled Artemis Fowl from theatrical release and will debut the film on its streaming service, Disney+. The move comes after its film Onward was pushed quickly to the digital platform after its release was essentially ruined due to theaters closing because of the coronavirus pandemic.

These may not be the only movies the company pulls from theaters, but it's not going to be common, the company's executive chairman, Bob Iger, told Barron's.

People eat popcorn in a movie theater.

Movie theaters remain closed. Image source: Getty Images.

What's next for Disney's movies?

The House of Mouse had a number of films slated for release in theaters that had to be pulled from its schedule. The company has moved some of them around, but there will be a bit of a backlog depending upon when theaters reopen.

"In terms of movies going ahead after Artemis, there may be a few more that we end up putting directly onto Disney+," Iger said, "but for the most part a lot of the big tentpole Disney films, we'll simply wait for slots. In some cases, we've announced new ones already, but later on in the calendar."

It's also possible that the company will pull another movie and release it on Hulu.

"In some cases we've moved things onto Disney+ faster than we would have," Iger continued. "Frozen 2 was one of them, but Onward would be the biggest example. It was in theaters when this happened."

A huge cost

Pulling a movie from theaters likely costs Disney hundreds of millions of dollars. That could, however, be offset by people subscribing to Disney+ or Hulu in order to see the film. That's a risky bet, because it only makes sense if millions of subscribers both join and stay, but it appears to be one Disney is willing to make.

Daniel B. Kline owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short April 2020 $135 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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