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Disney is planning simultaneous premium streaming releases of Raya and the Final Dragon

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Disney will release the upcoming cartoon title Raya and the Last Dragon simultaneously in theaters and on Disney + as a premium film offer, the company announced today. This is the latest title to see a joint theater and digital release as the relentless Covid-19 pandemic casts doubt on the feasibility of traditional theatrical performances.

The film, an adventure fantasy from Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Studios, plays Kelly Marie Tran, who pronounces the title Raya and Awkwafina the dragon Sisu. It will be released in theaters and on Disney + as a premiere access title on March 5, 2021, the company announced today during a virtual presentation to investors. Executives haven't announced how much the title will cost as a premium title.

It's the second such premium release on Disney + after the company decided to offer the live-action remake of Mulan for premium rental in September for $ 29.99. But it also comes when the theater industry grapples with a potential bruise in 2021 after the Covid-19 pandemic devastated traditional theater-going.

Just last week, after announcing that it would release the upcoming superhero film Wonder Woman 1984 simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max on December 25, WarnerMedia made the astounding decision to have all 17 Warner Bros. & # 39; films available in both theaters in 2021 to do and at the same time on HBO max. Unlike Disney, these releases are not premium titles and come at no additional cost after paying for an HBO Max subscription.

WarnerMedia's decision sparked a number of setbacks within the industry and among theater owners who said the decision could be ruinous. "Some of the greatest filmmakers and major movie stars in our industry went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the biggest studio and woke up to find they were working for the worst streaming service," said director Christopher Nolan.

John Stankey, CEO of AT&T, defended this move this week as a "win-win-win".

"There is a win for us, there is a win for our customers and there is a win for our partners," he said on Tuesday. "And every time you change a model, I know it creates a certain amount of noise and this is certainly no exception. But I think ultimately rational parties will step back and look at that and say," It is a good thing for them to give theater owners predictable release of content over the next few months that they can plan and get to work. ""

With this announcement about Raya and the Last Dragons, Disney is unlikely to be ruffling the industry's feathers as much as the decision only affects one title. But it does show the challenges entertainment companies will face in 2021 when many blockbusters delayed this year are about to make their debut.

And with many of these blockbusters still waiting to debut in 2021, it's unlikely that the simultaneous release will be the last to be announced.

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Jeffrey Rabinowitz