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Is Disney Plus Done with Premier Access?

Jungle Cruise
(Image credit: Disney Plus )

So this is how the innovative future of motion picture distribution dies ... with a garden-variety Dwayne Johnson movie?

Just three weeks after the big $60 million premium streaming debut of Marvel movie Black Widow had pundits talking about a "watershed moment," in which movies will now be ubiquitously released simultaneously at home and in theaters, the very future of Disney's "Premier Access" distribution strategy now looks to be in doubt. 

Indeed, Disney has yet to announce a next feature for its premium $30 Disney Plus Premier Access lineup. 

Jungle Cruise, a $200 million Disney adventure-fantasy film starring Johnson and Emily Blunt, debuted to $30 million in Disney Plus Premier Access streaming revenue over the weekend, along with $61.8 million at the worldwide box office. 

Jungle Cruise actually beat its pre-release "tracking." But by recent standards, the performance was middling at best, coming after the mid-July debut of Black Widow grossed $158 million at the global box office and $60 million via Premier Access, which allows Disney Plus subscribers the ability to stream the movie from home provided they pay an additional $29.99. 

At the time, analysts touted Disney's lack of encumbrance to theatrical profit sharing, with some noting that $60 million in Premier Access receipts was more like $120 million at the box office, since the studio doesn't have to split the proceeds. 

But in the ensuing weeks following that July 7 premiere, Black Widow's box office performance wilted. The superhero movie, starring Scarlett Johansson, has grossed only $343.6 million at the global box office, well behind the pace of rival studio summer tentpoles including Universal's latest Fast & Furious installment, F9, which has grossed $641.7 million so far this summer after debuting exclusively in theaters. 

Disney would also seemed to have cannibalized the home-release window for Black Widow, with many of those home-video consumers expected to rent or buy the title now lacking as much incentive.

The next shoe dropped for Disney last week, when Johansson filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court, accusing the studio of pulling out the contractual rug under her feet, undermining a compensation agreement based on theatrical revenue. 

Emma Stone, star of the Disney Premier Access May release title, Cruella, is reportedly considering a similar lawsuit against the studio.  

Given the Delta-variant-fueled resurgence of COVID-19, the theatrical release platform remains iffy. But the litigation and dour Week 2 box-office returns casts renewed doubt on day-and-date streaming. 

And the fact that Disney has nothing else on the schedule creates even more doubt. 

We sent an email to Disney reps Monday morning to find out if any other titles are being scheduled for its day-and-date streaming window. We'll update this report if we hear back. 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. His reliable mid-range jump shot, deft ambidextrous post-up game and tough interior defense have been criminally overlooked.