In news that could have enormous repercussions for the entire entertainment industry, Disney has announced a restructuring of its business, which it claims will “focus on developing and producing original content for the Company’s streaming services, as well as for legacy platforms, while distribution and commercialization activities will be centralized into a single, global Media and Entertainment Distribution organization.” While revealing a variety of organizational changes to its corporate hierarchy, the company also made clear that while its three newly created “content groups” — “Studios, General Entertainment, and Sports” —  will “be responsible and accountable for producing and delivering content for theatrical, linear and streaming” the “primary focus” will be on “the Company’s streaming services” like Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+.

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In other words, moving forward the parts of Disney that create movies will be thinking about streaming services first, before they think about movie theaters, a massive change of thinking whose full impact we’ll probably only understand years from now. Through the entire history of Hollywood, films have been designed for theaters, with home video markets considered ancillary and additional sources of revenue. If Disney really is going to put streaming first in the future, that could have an enormous impact on what films they choose to make, and how much they choose to spend on those movies. At present, it is very difficult to make Star Wars or Marvel movies for streaming at the scale their audiences expect if profitability is at all a concern. Does that mean fewer Marvel or Star Wars movies in the future? Or more smaller-scale serials like The Mandalorian? Or more movies at lower budgets?

It’s hard to say right now. But if Disney really is putting streaming first, that could affect not only their future productions, but the fate of movie theaters as well, who rely on Disney and its subsidiaries for a huge percentage of their yearly releases. If Marvel and Star Wars and Pixar all become streaming-first entities, it’s hard to imagine theaters surviving in their present form.

You can read Disney’s full press release about this potentially enormous restructuring right here.

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