One of the many problems regarding this policy is the lack of coherence and transparency when it comes down to how it will actually be applied. Vulture reports that theatre owners, despite seemingly adhering to the requirements for the venue, have had the permit to screen the movies revoked. This has a disturbing impact on smaller theatres, who often seek to rely on established properties. Another point of confusion seems to be regarding the movies that will actually be affected. For example, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a Fox movie, is not currently affected by the policy. This is probably because Disney is aware that prohibiting screenings of a film that established a cult following through midnight screenings would cause an up-roar in the community. Although it is certainly a relief that such movies are not currently affected, the lack of clarity regarding this dangerous policy is frightening.
The infamous Disney vault has been used for years to fabricate excitement regarding the release of older properties
Now that it has been established that the potential impact on an already shaky theatre industry could be disastrous, it is important to analyse why Disney would resort to such measures. The short answer? Money. The infamous Disney vault has been used for years to fabricate excitement regarding the release of older properties. In fact, instead of making its titles always available for purchase, Disney prefers to secure them in their ‘vault’, waiting for the most profitable opportunity to release them again. This included preventing these films from being screened in theatres. Of course, with the imminent arrival of their very own streaming platform, Disney+, all of this manufactured build up will be used to lure customers to subscribe. However, while the presence of family friendly properties on the service is guaranteed, the same cannot be said of other films. This will affect Fox’s legacy in particular, due to the volume of films that might not fall under the Disney brand: Alien, Aliens, Suspiria or Fight Club being just a few examples.
Assuming but not conceding that Disney might sort out a way to present such titles on their platform, the main problem still remains: the loss of theatre as a venue for experiencing iconic movies. The value of the theatrical experience is wide-ranging. There is something about going to the theatre that can never be replicated at home. It might be knowing that, in the darkness of the room, everybody shares the same purpose: to escape. To completely let go of lives, and be immersed in the vision someone else created for our entertainment. It is exactly that communal experience that makes films different than any other art form. Reading a book or analysing a painting tends to be, while deeply rewarding, isolating. Movies are not like that. The better ones are made to be experienced by an audience, and therefore create a sense of community that is not readily available in our daily lives. To allow future generations to fully understand why movies like Alien are so relevant in our culture, it is essential to have them available to be experienced the way they were meant to. The use of colours, soundtrack and tone create an atmosphere that is hard to replicate at home. One such movie, now available on Disney+, is Shape of Water. So much of the genius of Guillermo del Toro comes from his ability to create other worldly experiences through deeply immersive direction: some of the magic of his project is inherently lost when experienced on a TV or, God forbid, a laptop.
No matter the brand Disney has established for themselves, moves like this are a harsh reminder of the reality of corporation.