Sitting in Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort is a big, empty, former AMC movie theater, which shuttered as part of a plan to build a new hotel at Downtown Disney. When the deal with the city of Anaheim didn’t go as planned, this new hotel project was canned. Now the theater sits empty, usually acting as a billboard and outside seating for nearby eateries. But what if Disney were to reopen the cinema as the Disney+ Theater? This could be a good option for the public and the studio.
Disney’s streaming service has exceeded all expectations since its launch in November 2019. Therefore, a lot of money is being invested in content being created specifically for Disney+. Along with television series, there are a good amount of movies with healthy budgets being produced specifically for the service. Disney is fully invested in Disney+ and its over 100 million subscribers, and isn’t cutting corners when it comes to their direct-to-streaming films. This was the case even before the pandemic changed the theatrical release landscape. Twenty years ago, these would have been major motion pictures seen on the big screen, but times have changed, and it feels like theatrical releases need to be a tentpole movie in order to get the honor of being projected on a silver screen.
Although the reality is that “small” films simply don’t sell movie tickets the way they once did, that doesn’t mean that nobody is interested. If Disney were to release Disney+ films in a nice movie theater in Downtown Disney, I bet people would show up for these limited runs, since it would be the only place where the public could see them on the big screen. They would be creating a unique destination that could only be experienced at Downtown Disney. In addition, during the times of year when the theme parks close early, this would be an additional entertainment option for guests staying at the resort, keeping them on property and extending their vacation days. Currently, a guest would need to leave the Disneyland Resort in order to visit a cinema.
Not only would fans reap the benefits of seeing previously unavailable films on the big screen, but this could be a win for Disney as well, aside from an assumedly profitable theatrical business. This whole experience could work as a giant advertisement for Disney+, encouraging previously unsubscribed guests to subscribe to the streaming network if they enjoyed the quality of the movies. I think a lot of people would be surprised by the quality of content made for the service. Perhaps they could even include a free trial of Disney+ with the purchase of a movie ticket to further entice future subscribers.
This concept might sound a little bit crazy, but it isn’t entirely unprecedented. Currently, Netflix is renovating the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood to screen its films. The streaming service is doing this more so to make their films eligible for Hollywood awards like the Oscars; unfortunately, that strategy wouldn’t apply to a theater in Anaheim as it’s not located in Los Angeles County, per the typical rules of the Academy Awards. But a streaming service running a cinema in order to present their films on a limited basis may become a new novelty in very specific locations.
Just down the street from the Egyptian Theatre is the already Disney-run El Capitan Theatre where they’ve shown some Disney+ content on the big screen, including Disney/Pixar’s “Luca.” However, that theater has only one screen and could never handle the amount of content being released on Disney+ in addition to typical theatrical releases. The abandoned AMC in Downtown Disney, on the other hand, has 12 screens inside. Even if Disney+ decided to use only three or four of those screens and repurpose the rest of the building, it would still give them a lot of screening opportunities for multiple films daily.
Perhaps Disney+ is already toying with this idea and is using events like its upcoming Hallowstream Drive-In to gauge how interested the public is in seeing the streaming content on a big screen. This special event is showing screenings of “Muppets Haunted Mansion,” “Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales,” “WandaVision,” and more content that is only available on the streaming service.
Overall, I feel like this concept could be a win-win scenario for both fans and Disney. It would certainly be a better use of the space than an empty AMC. What do you think? Would you be interested in seeing a Disney+ movie in a cinema? If so, let me know whether or not you’re already a Disney+ subscriber. Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.