Disney is ready to experiment with a movie release that is available simultaneously in theaters and on one of its streaming services. The guinea pig film? Nomadland, a modern drama starring Frances McDormand (Fargo), David Strathairn (Lincoln) and three real-life nomads in the US. As The Hollywood Reporter explains, the movie — which is being distributed by Disney-owned Searchlight Pictures — will debut in select IMAX theaters on January 29th before hitting traditional theaters and Hulu on February 19th. It’s already been a hit with the critics, picking up awards at both the Venice Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival last year.
The strategy should sound familiar. It’s the same one that Warner Bros. has adopted for its entire 2021 movie slate. The only difference, of course, is that Warner Bros. is focusing its streaming efforts on HBO Max. It’s no surprise that Disney has chosen Hulu over Disney+ for Nomadland’s streaming release. Both are owned by the house of mouse, however Hulu has a slightly more grown-up brand. According to Variety, Searchlight Pictures plans to release Nomadland internationally later in the will then be released internationally throughout the spring. It’s unclear if the movie will be available to stream in markets where Hulu isn’t currently available.
Nomadland’s release follows a slew of slightly different streaming experiments from Disney. The company rushed Onward’s release to Disney+, for instance, once it became clear that the pandemic would limit its box office takings. Mulan was released on Disney+, but with an additional fee attached, and Soul premiered exclusively on the service last month. A number of other movies have been confirmed as straight-to-Disney+ releases, including Pinocchio and Peter Pan & Wendy. The release strategy for higher-profile movies such as Black Widow — a Marvel epic that’s been delayed several times already — is still a mystery, however.