The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed the movie industry's distribution model, and Walt Disney (DIS -0.83%) CEO Bob Chapek says there is no "going back" to how things were before.

The experiments it and other movie studios did during the coronavirus outbreak have forever changed consumer expectations, and the 90-day theater exclusive is likely a thing of the past.

Pile of film reels

Image source: Getty Images.

Bringing down the curtain

Industry site The Wrap reports Chapek made the comments during a Q&A session at Morgan Stanley's Tech, Media & Telecom virtual conference yesterday.

"The consumer is probably more impatient than they've ever been before, particularly since now they've had the luxury of an entire year of getting titles at home pretty much when they want them," he said. "So, I'm not sure there's going back. But we certainly don't want to do anything like cut the legs off a theatrical exhibition run."

That's at least a nod toward the importance theaters do still hold for blockbuster films, but it suggests cinema owners AMC Entertainment Holdings, Cinemark, and Regal Cinemas face a difficult future.

While AMC and Cinemark signed deals with Comcast's Universal Pictures to shorten the window of theater exclusivity to just 17 days, there were promises of revenue sharing after the movies switched to streaming as well as extending the theater run if the film reached a certain opening weekend dollar threshold.

Disney is planning a day-and-date release of Raya and The Last Dragon for this Friday, simultaneously releasing the film into theaters and to on-demand video, but with a $30 premium attached, even for Disney+ subscribers, similar to how it released the live-action remake Mulan.

While Chapek says the number of theaters open and consumer willingness to return are influencing the decision in the short term, it's also the result of "fundamental changes of consumer behavior, which might be more profound."