Streaming plans at Walt Disney shifted into hyper speed as the studio unveiled a galaxy's worth of new streaming offerings including plans for 10 "Star Wars" series spinoffs and 10 Marvel series that will debut on Disney+.
Over the next few years, Disney plans to premiere directly on Disney+ not just an armada of "Star Wars" and Marvel series but live-action movies and shows along with Pixar animated content.
Among the "Star Wars" series are two spinoffs of "The Mandalorian." Other "Star Wars" stars are returning, including Hayden Christensen who will reprise his role as Death Vader in "Obi-Wan Kenobi."
"We have a vast and expansive timeline in the 'Star Wars' mythology, spanning over 25,000 years of history in the galaxy with each era being a rich resource for storytelling," said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. "Now with Disney+ we can explore limitless story possibilities like never before and fulfill the promise that there is truly a 'Star Wars' story for everyone."
Investors seem impressed with the expanded lineup, with Disney shares jumping more than 10% on Friday to $170.43. The stock has remained resilient despite the company reporting billions in losses stemming from the coronavirus pandemic's impact on its theme park and other businesses. Even before today's rise, Disney shares were up 7% on the year. Disney disclosed earlier this year that it plans to lay off tens of thousands of workers in a cost-cutting move.
Disney is scheduling its biggest films — including Marvel's "Black Widow" and Black Panther 2 — for theatrical release. Kevin Feige, who leads Disney's Marvel content, said a pair of new Marvel series will tie directly to future films.
"We build the franchises through the theatrical window," CEO Bob Chapek said Thursday during Disney's Investor Day. "Of the 100 new titles announced today, 80% of them will go to Disney+, but we had $13 billion of box office last year and that's obviously not something to sneeze at."
Analysts from LightShed Partners said Disney is walking a tight rope with releasing movies to stream and in theaters. The company is wants "the financial benefits of their consistent box office outperformance and keeping theaters alive with their blockbuster film output while providing fresh exclusive movie content to Disney+ to drive subscribers."
"Disney, more than any other studio in the world, benefits most from the continuation of the theatrical business," LightShed said in a research note. "We believe its Marvel and Star Wars management teams, led by Feige and Kennedy, respectively, are firmly committed to releasing their product theatrically."
Chapek said Disney+ subscribers have reached 86.8 million, up from 74 million last month. The company forecasts between 230 and 260 million subscribers by 2024. To keep numbers climbing, Disney also presented a blizzard of remakes, sequels and spinoffs including a "Beauty and the Beast" prequel series and a "Moana" animated series.
LightShed said Disney+ has exploded and could grow larger now that viewers in India and Latin America can join.
"We would not be surprised to see Disney+ closing in on 90 million subscribeers in just over a year since launch," analysts wrote.
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