- NEW YORK (AP)
The Walt Disney Co. will release “Frozen 2” on Disney Plus several months early to give families cooped up by the coronavirus a welcome distraction — and give its streaming service a boost.
Disney announced Friday that “Frozen 2” will begin streaming on Disney Plus Sunday, three months earlier than expected. In some countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, the movie will start streaming Tuesday.
Most upcoming new releases have been postponed due to the virus, including Disney’s own lineup. “Mulan” had been set to hit theaters next week. Few March or April movies remain on the calendar. Some movie theaters have shuttered, though most are currently imposing new restrictions on audience crowding to help facilitate the social distancing recommended by health officials.
The move by Disney could presage how other media companies funnel their films to streaming services in the coming weeks as studios look for ways to capitalize on audiences stuck at home. And it could prove a pivotal moment in the evolution of streaming services in relation to theatrical release. The major studios have largely guarded the traditional three-month exclusive theatrical window.
“Frozen 2,” which opened on Nov. 22, had already completed its theatrical run and hit video-on-demand on Feb. 25. With more than $1.4 billion in worldwide ticket sales, it’s the highest grossing animated film ever.
Meanwhile The Walt Disney Co. says its shutting down many of its live-action productions due to the coronavirus.
Hollywood on Friday continued to halt shoots of most films and television series to help control the spread of the virus. For Disney, that includes the live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid”; Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel,” with Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Ben Affleck; Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”; a “Home Alone” remake; and Guillermo Del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley.” It’s also putting on hold a pair of films in pre-production: “Peter Pan and Wendy” and a “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” reboot.
“While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on our productions, after considering the current environment and the best interests of our cast and crew, we have made the decision to pause production on some of our live-action films for a short time,” said a spokesman for Disney. “We will continue to assess the situation and restart as soon as feasible.”
The Walt Disney Co. on Thursday delayed the releases of several upcoming films, including “Mulan.”
Disney is also slowing things on its television side, shutting down the productions of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Genius: Aretha” for at least three weeks. And the crisis is hampering production of potential new shows, with work on more than a dozen pilots halted.