Disney's big holiday movie will skip French theaters in release window protest

The animated film 'Strange World' is going straight to Disney+ instead.


In protest of France's content streaming rules, Disney has announced that its animated holiday film Strange World (aka Avalonia) will go straight to Disney+ and not appear in theaters in the country. It also gave a strong statement to Deadline decrying France's so-called chronologie des medias rules.

"Strange World will be available to all Disney+ subscribers in France, foregoing a French cinematic release. While we support French cinema — and have for decades — the new, cumbersome media chronology is anti-consumer, ignoring how behavior has evolved over the last several years and puts us at increased risk for piracy. We will continue to make decisions on a film-by-film basis and according to each market’s unique conditions," a company spokesperson said.

France's laws force studios like Disney to wait 17 months before they can release movies to Disney+ after a theatrical release, following a four month purchase and exclusive six-month Canal+ window. Disney+ can then only keep it for five months, as it goes to free-to-air channels like TF1 and France 2 for a 14-month period. Once that window ends (36 months after the theatrical release), it reverts back to Disney+.

Disney's big holiday movie will skip French theaters in release window protest
Minister of Culture

Prior to a new law implemented earlier this year, the situation actually used to be worse for streaming channels, with release windows much longer. Disney has protested because the new rules favor Netflix, giving it a shorter 15-month window before films can revert to its streaming service. It has also said that the laws don't take into account the new reality of how content is consumed in the COVID-19 era.

"We believe that the media chronology is not consumer friendly, nor does it establish a balanced or proportionate framework between the various players in the French audiovisual ecosystem. This is especially frustrating as we have been increasing our investment in the creation of original French content while also supporting French cinema through our theatrical releases," Disney said at the time. (Engadget has reached out to France's media regulator for comment.)

France's Ministry of Culture and regulatory body CNC juggle the needs of theater chains, studios, streaming services and consumers. At the same time, they're trying to encourage local production and original French content in general. That has been effective of late, with numerous productions like Emily in France shot in the country. At the same time, original French series like Netflix's Lupin and Call My Agent have become hits in the US and elsewhere around the world.