Disney scraps ‘Strange World’ theatrical release in France citing ‘heavy’ movie rules

The Walt Disney Co. SAY is in a row with the French government over theatrical window mandates.

The Burbank, Calif.-based entertainment giant is pulling its upcoming animated feature, “Strange World,” from French theaters and sending it straight to the Disney+ streaming service.

What happened: In February, France updated its rules on the window between a theatrical release and a streaming presentation, which previously required a 36-month waiting period for a subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) premiere. The French government has conducted negotiations with film companies, streaming services and TV stations to determine a new window length.

Netflix, Inc. NFLX signed up for the new term and got a 15-month waiting period, but Disney and Amazon.com Inc. AMZN did not and were given 17 months.

“Strange World,” the next Disney-branded animated feature, is slated for worldwide release in late November. However, the studio has alerted Deadline that the film will not be shown in French theaters in protest at the new window period.

“‘Strange World’ will be available to all Disney+ subscribers in France, with no French theatrical release,” the company said in a prepared statement. “While we have been supporting French cinema – and have been for decades – the cumbersome new media timeline is anti-consumer, ignoring how behavior has evolved over the past few years and putting us at increased risk of piracy.”

The company added that this decision was specific to “Strange World” and that it would “continue to make decisions on a film-by-film basis and based on the unique conditions of each market.”

Why it happened: According to Deadline, Disney’s theatrical releases in France are available for purchase on SVOD four months after their debut, then become available for Canal+ television channel after six months. Seventeen months after their big-screen release, the films go to Disney Plus+ for five months, then they’re pulled from the streaming service to be shown on free-to-air channels for 14 months before returning to Disney+ 36 months later .

The French government created this system to protect cinema operators from audience encroachment by other platforms. Bypassing a theatrical release, Disney is throwing the proverbial wrench into the system by using its streaming service for the local premiere of a major animated film.

Disney posted a trailer for “Strange World” online Monday in all markets where a theatrical release is planned, but it has not been made available to French viewers.

Photo: A scene from ‘Strange World’, courtesy of Disney.