will in March, Disney said Thursday as it unleashed a flood of news about its streaming services at a marathon, four-hour event. Disney laid out plans for as many as 20 new , promised to let animation fans stream animated fantasy (for a price), and revealed a new bundle that packages ad-free Hulu with Disney Plus and ESPN Plus for .
But the company was silent about its plan for streaming Marvel’s Black Widow and other mega-budget movies set to come out next year, like Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals.
Typically, Disney movies make their way toabout five to eight months after they premiere in theaters. But in the , Disney has been accelerating its films’ turnaround to streaming. Movies like Frozen II, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Pixar’s Onward dropped on Disney Plus months earlier than planned. Then Disney decided its filmed version of Hamilton, Pixar’s Soul and many of its coming live-action movies should skip theaters entirely. Even movies like its live-action Mulan and Raya stream on Disney Plus for an extra fee at the same time they’re in some theaters.
But Disney didn’t provide any guidance about when it would present Marvel movies on Disney Plus, fogginess that suggests that the Hollywood giant is still uncertain about aggressively putting its biggest-budget movies online even as the pandemic continues to keep film fans out of cinema seats.
Last week, in a move that shocked many and, AT&T’s WarnerMedia said all new movies from its Warner Bros. studio — including Wonder Woman 1984, Dune and The Matrix 4 — would be available to stream on its own streaming service HBO Max the same day that the flicks hit theaters, at no added cost to subscribers. Disney’s streaming release strategy for Marvel — or, rather, the lack thereof — shows Disney isn’t ready to commit to such a dramatic overhaul of how movies are released.
Disney’s loyalty to theatrical-release norms, which before the pandemic kept movies exclusively in cinemas for 75 days or more, has been well rewarded in the past. Disney’s racked up more top box-office blockbusters in the last five years than any other studio.
Still, Disney Plus won’t want for new programming. Disney plans to flood Disney Plus and its other streaming services with shows and movies, promising more than 100 new titles every year on Disney Plus and committing to spend $14 billion to $16 billion annually on streaming content across its services within the next four years. (That’s about the same size as Netflix’s budget now.) And $8 billion to $9 billion of Disney’s overall streaming budget will be exclusively for Disney Plus.
Disney Plus has been the breakout hit of the so-called streaming wars, a period over the last year when seemingly everyone, including, , , and , rolled out a streaming service to take on the likes of and . Disney Plus has soared to and outmatched all the rest of the new competitors. On Thursday, the company said it expects to reach 230 million to 260 million members by late 2024.
By comparison, Netflix, which has been streaming since 2007, expects to surpass 200 million subscribers by the end of this year.
Star Wars set loose a torrent of news about new shows and movies Thursday.
On Disney Plus specifically, the service will ramp up two spinoffs from its breakout hit The Mandalorian.will bring Rosario Dawson back to play Ahsoka Tano, a fan-favorite character from the animated The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels shows. Dawson’s Ahsoka, a Jedi wielding two white lightsabers with ninja-like stealth, first appeared in The Mandalorian’s second season. The show will debut on Disney Plus around Christmas of 2021. The other Mandalorian spinoff is called Rangers of the New Republic. Disney provided fewer details about Rangers, but both spinoffs will be set within the timeline of The Mandalorian.
Disney Plus updated fans on its Obi-Wan and Rogue One spinoff series. The Obi-Wan project will bring Ewan McGregor’s Jedi face-to-face again with Hayden Christensen’s Darth Vader, with events taking place 10 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith. And Andor will be a spy thriller with Diego Luna reprising his Rogue One role of Cassian Andor, set to stream on DIsney Plus in 2022.
Disney Plus is also developing a Lando series and another show called The Acolyte, a mystery thriller from Leslye Headland, who was behind Russian Doll on Netflix.
In theatrical news, Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins will direct a. Rogue Squadron will be released in theaters Christmas of 2023 and is set to follow pilots across the Star Wars universe.
We may not know when Marvel’s movies will be arriving on Disney Plus next year, but thewill be alighting on Disney Plus in a rapid-fire series releases, all in the first half of next year. The first, WandaVision, will land Jan. 15, as was previously announced. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will quickly follow on March 19. And Loki will drop on Disney Plus in May. It’s Marvel fans’ first return to the MCU in more than a year.
On Thursday, Disney released the first footage from all three of the series for fans to pore over. It also released a tralier for What If?…, an alternate-timeline animated series announced last year. The show stars Jeffery Wright as The Watcher, and a slew of returning MCU stars lend their voices.
For future Marvel original series on Disney Plus, the company provided a raft of new details. Tatiana Maslany will be playing the 6-foot-7 lawyer She-Hulk, and Tim Roth and Mark Ruffalo will be a part of the series. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige said the Moon Knight will feature “incredible Egyptian iconology,” and has director Mohamed Diab attached. Ms. Marvel has recently started filming, allowing Disney Plus to release its first early footage.
And Disney announced yet more Marvel series to come. Secret Invasion will starr Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, bringing him back together with Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos and focusing on shapeshifting Skrulls on Earth. Ironheart will have Dominique Thorne play the young genius, which Feige confirmed will crossover with the larger MCU films. Armor Wars brings back Don Cheadle as War Machine. From The Guardians of the Galaxy world, Disney Plus will offer a James Gunn-created holiday special in late 2022 ahead of the third ensemble film, and I Am Groot is an animated series of shorts featuring the beloved, baby-incarnation of the character.
More on Disney Plus
On Disney Plus itself next year, Disney is switching some of its live-action movies originally intended for the big screen intoentirely. They include Cruella, which was supposed to hit cinemas in May; Pinocchio, a live-action remake starring Tom Hanks; its Peter Pan reboot; Disenchanted, a sequel to Enchanted that will have Amy Adams reprise her princess role; and Sister Act 3, reviving the comedy franchise about nuns.
–Mark Serrels, Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Caitlin Petrakovitz contributed to this report.