Disney is currently enjoying quite a successful run thanks to Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, particularly considering how hard the entertainment industry has been hit in recent years. Much of this has come from streaming hits on Disney+ such as Tom Hiddleston's Loki and Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye. Additionally, blockbuster movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home are slowly bringing fans back to theaters.
Even so, the industry is continuing to face major changes due to the streaming vs. theaters debate, including what fans are seeing from the MCU.
Since before Disney+ even launched, Marvel Studios made it clear that its new serialized shows would have the same quality as the upcoming movies - they would simply debut via a different medium. However, due to the rise in high-quality projects from Disney and other entertainment moguls, what fans see now could become even more normal moving forward.
Looking at this model, fans and industry personnel alike have growing concerns about what this all means for the status of movie theaters as a whole, even with big releases planned for the next few years.
In that light, Disney's former CEO shared his own thoughts on the matter; while they may not completely spell doom and gloom, they do accentuate the issues people are looking at.
Are Marvel Shows Competing With the Movies?
Speaking with The New York Times, former Disney CEO Bob Iger shared his stance on the current state of movies and the theatrical model. Specifically, he explained where he thinks things are going with the increase in quality streaming services alongside theatrical releases.
Interviewer Kara Swisher suggested that theaters may decrease in quantity due to the rise in streaming content, only being there for major tentpole films like Spider-Man: No Way Home. While Iger didn't believe that "it's the death" of movie theaters or anything "fatal," he did say that streamers could deal theaters "a severe injury that maybe doesn't heal:"
"I don’t think it’s the death. I think it’s a severe injury that maybe doesn’t heal. And what I mean by that is, not fatal. It might be fatal to some."
Part of what Iger sees coming is "far fewer films released for the big screen," which may be limited to bigger blockbusters like those from Marvel Studios.
The former Disney head seemed confident that fans "will still want to go to movies" no matter what, but he also thinks people may be more "discerning" about which movies they want to go out to see:
"However, they will be much more, I think, discerning about what movies they want to see out of the home, where you’re likely, I think, to say or ask yourself, wait a minute, is this a movie I need to see on the big screen and do all that, or can I wait or not even wait, for that matter, and see it at home?"
Looking specifically at No Way Home, Iger made it clear how popular the film was around the world and that it benefited from the "larger-than-life experience" in theaters. However, he also admitted that many films out there "don’t fit into that category" and don't have to be seen on opening weekends.
While Iger praised some theaters for "(having) it figured out" and "(improving) the experience," he also looked at how that experience "has to be perfect" these days. He even made it clear that it wasn't about movies specifically, but that there are "so many more choices in the home" thanks to several TV shows currently running.
Iger noted that Disney Plus' movie-quality series like Marvel Studios' The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki are causing "much more competition" for movie theaters, which could ultimately hurt them:
"It’s not even about whether you watch a movie on the big screen or at home. It’s just, you have so many more choices in the home. Think about the number of TV series that we’re talking about— at a quality level that’s pretty good, much better, from a production-value perspective, than it used to be... Some of the T.V. shows that Disney has made— “Mandalorian” being one, the Marvel series, “Falcon and the Winter Solider,” “Loki”— each one of those is a movie. So just, movie theaters have much more competition than they ever had before."
What Does the Future Look Like for Movies?
With major franchises like the MCU, the DC Extended Universe, and Star Wars, there will be tentpole movies that will still come to theaters for at least most of the next decade. However, Iger's comments could mean that there may be less of a selection for movies like this with streaming services on the rise.
Depending on when the world sees a semblance of a normal life again, this situation could very well go somewhat back to the way it was with movie theaters. Even so, this won't stop companies like Disney from pumping out excellent content no matter the medium, whether it be Loki on Disney+ or Spider-Man: No Way Home on the big screen.
The positive side of this chat is that Iger still sees a market for movie theaters, even if there are fewer big movies playing when they make their debut. Marvel Studios specifically has mastered the art of making movies a theatrical experience, and with how much content is coming, there will still be a demand for that kind of viewing opportunity.
For now, the situation will be something fans watch almost daily for any changes and/or improvements, particularly as studios decide what to do with blockbuster movies and streaming services. Disney will be one of the driving forces for this evolving model with such a high quantity of content coming, although fans shouldn't expect any less in quality.
For Marvel Studios, all five streaming series from 2021 are now available on Disney+. The next series to release will be Moon Knight on March 30, 2022. On the theatrical side, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will premiere on May 6, 2022.