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How long after theaters do movies arrive on Disney Plus?

A pre- and post-pandemic overview of how long Disney takes to bring movies from theaters to Disney Plus.

Published onJune 6, 2021

Frozen 2 on Disney Plus app with blue background 1

The streaming landscape is evolving fast as the world sits at home due to the current coronavirus pandemic. With theaters shut and people practicing social distancing, it’s no surprise that platforms like Disney Plus are moving up movie releases for streaming.

Read more: What’s new on Disney Plus

But things weren’t always the same, and they could go back to their usual routine once more cinemas start reopening and people start going to the movies. In this article, we’ll try and break down the release schedule in which Disney movies come to Disney Plus after their theatrical release. We’ve taken into account examples of movie releases both pre- and post-pandemic, so you can get an idea of what’s the norm and how things are changing.

Disney Plus release schedule pre-pandemic

Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Disney movies generally arrived on Blu-Ray and DVD months before going on to streaming platforms. Previously, you could find a handful of Disney movies on Netflix after their disk releases, but that changed with the launch of Disney Plus last year.

Now, you can find not only Disney’s own set of movies on Disney Plus, but you also get a whole catalog of titles from Pixar, Lucas Films, Marvel, 2oth Century Fox, and more.

When Disney Plus launched, a company executive told The Hollywood Reporter that Disney doesn’t plan on changing any release windows to bring movies sooner to Disney Plus.

Disney usually lets a movie run in theaters for about 90 days. It then comes to digital for paid purchases. This is followed by a Blu-Ray and DVD release after two or three weeks. The movie finally goes up for streaming about four months after that. However, this timeline is not at all set in stone.

Also read: The best movies on Disney Plus right now

Even before the pandemic, Disney was releasing movies on Disney Plus earlier than expected. For example, Frozen 2 hit cinema screens on November 22, 2019, and was expected to release on Disney Plus sometime in June 2020. However, the movie came to the streaming platform on March 14, 2020.

Similarly, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was released in cinemas in December 2019 and came to Disney Plus in early May 2020.

But there were still some films like Maleficent: Mistress of Evil that took a whole seven months after its theatrical release in October 2019 to reach Disney Plus in May 2020.

So as you can see, it’s really up to Disney when a movie should go from the silver screen to the streaming screen. In fact, Disney releases are going to be even more fluid given the pandemic situation.

Read more: Movies delayed due to coronavirus

Disney Plus release schedule post-pandemic

hamilton disney plus

Since people are not going to theaters these days, streaming’s got a big boost as production companies look to get their work out somehow. In the wake of this pandemic, Disney can also be seen wavering from its usual theater-to-streaming schedule.

For instance, the acclaimed Broadway musical Hamilton was released straight on Disney Plus, skipping a theater release entirely. Another Disney original, Artemis Fowl – a sci-fi fantasy based on the book series by the same name – was set to arrive in theaters on May 29, 2020, but was released directly on Disney Plus on June 12, 2020.

Also read: The best Disney Plus TV shows

The same happened to Mulan —  a live-action adaptation of Disney’s 1998 animated movie by the same name. The film was scheduled to release in cinemas on March 27, 2020. Its release then got rescheduled to July 24, 2020, and finally, the movie skipped theaters altogether to premiere on Disney Plus for a $30 fee.  The movie was made available on the service without an extra fee in December 2020.


Also in December 2020, Disney decided to release its latest Pixar animated film,  Soul, directly to Disney Plus in most territories. On March 5, 2021, the company launched its latest non-Pixar animated feature, Raya the Last Dragon, directly on Disney Plus, for an extra $30 fee. The movie was made available for all Disney Plus users without that extra fee in early June 2021.

In late May, the Disney Plus release schedule added Cruella, the live-action prequel to the 101 Dalmations series, via the extra $30 fee model. It was also released to theaters as well. It will likely ditch that extra fee later this summer. Two more movies, Marvel Studios’ Black Widow and Jungle Cruise will use that same business model when they are released in July. In addition, the new Pixar movie Luca will bypass theaters completely and will be released exclusively on Disney Plus on June 18.

That said, Disney isn’t giving up on theater releases just yet.

“We very much believe in the value of the theatrical experience overall to launch blockbuster movies,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said during an earnings call in May 2020. “We’re going to evaluate each one of our movies on a case-by-case situation, as we are doing right now, during this coronavirus situation,” he added.

So as you can tell, Disney Plus movie release dates are constantly shifting right now. We expect things to go back to the pre-pandemic release schedule once life returns to normalcy, but the one thing coronavirus has taught us is that we should be prepared for surprises. It’ll be really interesting to see how streaming services plan content in the near future. Disney Plus might go the paid streaming route for some time before it goes back to its routine of releasing films in theaters.

Also read: Movies released early via streaming due to the pandemic

Meanwhile, if you haven’t subscribed to Disney Plus yet and would like to become a member, you can do so by hitting the button below. Given how new movies are releasing faster on Disney Plus these days, now might be a good time to get on board.

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