NEW YORK — The Pixar film "Soul" will skip theaters and instead premiere on Disney+ on Christmas, the Walt Disney Co. announced Thursday, sending one of the fall's last big movies straight to streaming.
The move, widely expected after the recent exodus of most major upcoming releases, marks one of the final dominos to fall in Hollywood's disastrous autumn. Following the exit of the James Bond film "No Time to Die" from November, the next big movie on the calendar is Warner Bros.' "Wonder Woman 1984," currently set for Dec. 25.
The successive delays of the film industry's would-be blockbusters has only made the dire circumstances of movie theaters more acute. Earlier this week, Cinemark said it would again shutter the U.S. and U.K. locations of its Regal cinemas, the country's second-largest theater chain.
On Thursday, the National Association of Theatre Owners, the trade group of exhibitors, said its #SaveYourCinema campaign has flooded Congress with more than 300,000 letters. Filmmakers including Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and "Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins have joined the campaign lobbying Congress to bring financial relief to theater owners. Without aid, the organization said, 69% of small and mid-sized movie theater companies will close or go bankrupt.
"The stark reality is that many movie theaters will not be able to open again if they don't receive government help," says Esther Baruh, director of government relations for the association. "This is as urgent as it gets."
"Soul" will be available for Disney+ to subscribers at no further charge. Disney last month steered "Mulan" to its streaming service of 60 million-plus subscribers but charged $30 for early access.
Disney has been hit hard by the pandemic. It recently announced that it would lay off 28,000 workers, most of them at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, the activist investor Daniel Loeb, founder of hedge fund Third Point, urged the company to more than double its budget for streaming content in a letter to Disney Chief Executive Bob Chapek.
Expectation had been high for "Soul," directed by Pete Docter, Pixar's chief creative officer and the filmmaker behind "Up" and "Inside Out." The film, about a middle school teacher (Jamie Foxx) with dreams of becoming a jazz musician, was originally to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Its theatrical release had been scheduled for Nov. 20.
"The world can be an exhausting and frustrating place – but it's also full of unexpected joys, even in seemingly mundane things," said Docter in a statement. "'Soul' investigates what's really important in our lives, a question we're all asking these days. I hope it will bring some humor and fun to people at a time when everyone can surely use that."