Big Time Adolescence, the Pete Davidson movie which earned a positive reception at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, hits theaters today and was initially supposed to begin streaming on Hulu on March 20. But in a surprise move, the film is currently available to watch on that streaming service right now. It dropped a week early, presumably due to the coronavirus – but don’t expect big studio movies like Mulan or Black Widow to head straight to streaming in response to the pandemic.
Big Time Adolescence Streams Early
After its screenplay made The Black List in 2014, Big Time Adolescence premiered at Sundance in 2019 and gained some acclaim, specifically for the performances of Saturday Night Live star and stand-up comedian Pete Davidson and teenaged actor Griffin Gluck. Hulu has not released an official statement about why its programmers decided to drop the movie on the service a week early, but sources familiar with the company’s decision told Vulture that “the company and the film’s producers made the last-minute call to move up the movie’s streaming premiere so that fans now unable to go out to a theater (because of coronavirus-related concerns) would be able to see it at the same time as theatergoers.”
Don’t Expect Big Movies to Shift to Streaming
Though Disney owns Hulu, the Mouse House is not planning to drop big, expensive films like Mulan or Black Widow on that service or over on Disney+, either. And according to The Verge, the reason why is simple: money. “Studios like Disney still earn an impressive return on investment when they release big tentpole, event movies in theaters. The global box office in 2019 alone saw $42.2 billion, up 1 percent from 2018. That’s the kind of money that no amount of streaming subscriptions can easily match.”
I’m not going to pretend to be a studio accountant here, but there are people who are being paid lots of money at Disney and other studios to game out scenarios like these. They know that releasing the $200 million live-action remake of Mulan directly onto Disney+ would garner a ton of headlines, and would likely lead to a bump in subscribers for the streaming service. And while that might seem like a smart move in the short term, what if those new subscribers watch Mulan, click around to see what else is on the platform, realize that it’ll be months before the next big event show arrives, and immediately cancel their subscription? It’s all about the bottom line, and clearly they think they have a better chance to recoup their investment by delaying a theatrical release and hoping that people will want to experience this movie on the big screen.
“I think what the consumer would say is that they would like to have every film on every medium right away because it’s easy for them,” Disney Studios co-chairman Alan Horn told THR recently. “But we find that with all the event films we’re making…we remain committed to the theatrical window. That window has proven very important to us.” Reading between the lines, Disney is signaling to their theatrical partners that even though Disney+ may be the way of the future, the theatrical component is still crucial to making them the biggest studio in town. Bottom line: while something like The New Mutants could technically, conceivably make its debut on a streaming service, it generally doesn’t make much financial sense for studios to send big films like Mulan, Wonder Woman 1984, or Black Widow straight to streaming. There’s simply too much money to be made with the theatrical model, and after spending hundreds of millions to make these films, the studios do not want to leave a single cent on the table if they can help it.
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