Broadway’s Hamilton to Skip Movie Theaters, Debut on Disney+

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Disney is releasing the filmed original Broadway production of Hamilton more than a year earlier than planned. And instead of premiering in theaters, it’ll be a Disney+ exclusive.

The filmed version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit musical, featuring Miranda in the lead role alongside the rest of the original Broadway cast, had been scheduled to premiere in theaters on Oct. 15, 2021, but will instead arrive on Disney+ on July 3, the company announced today. In a tweet, Disney chairman Bob Iger said he was “thrilled” about the decision to bump up the release. 

“In this very difficult time, this story of leadership, tenacity, hope, love & the power of people to unite against adversity is both relevant and inspiring,” he said.

The move is a big one for Disney, which has seen a significant hit to most of its businesses due to the ongoing pandemic that has shuttered retail locations, theme parks and travel businesses, and the move to speed up the release of Hamilton is almost certainly aimed at keeping Disney+ subscribers engaged.

Disney+, which now has 54.5 million subscribers, and Hulu, in which Disney has a controlling stake, which has 32.1 million paying customers, remain some of the only businesses in Disney’s portfolio that haven’t been almost entirely hamstrung by the ongoing pandemic.

The shift, though, draws a line through any plans for the theatrical revenue that Disney had counted on for Hamilton’s release. While Disney has already opted to move some theatrical releases over to the streamer earlier than planned, those releases were more immediately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Pixar film Onward, whose March theatrical release was cut short after theaters around the country began to close, arrived on transactional video-on-demand in March before hitting Disney+ on April 6; Artemis Fowl, another planned theatrical release for this month, will instead land on the streaming service on June 12.

Disney has moved other theatrical releases, including the live-action remake of Mulan, further down the calendar in an effort to preserve some of the anticipated box-office revenue.

The decision to push up Hamilton’s release so far in advance highlights the challenges of keeping content offerings on the streaming services fresh amid ongoing production shutdowns. The content pipeline for most of the television and film business is facing continued strain as production for most live-action programming has come to a standstill due to the ongoing pandemic, making some of the anticipated originals on Disney+, including a slate of Marvel originals, seem unlikely to arrive as expected.

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