The Mouse House will not abandon cinemas, but its reorganization is an admission that theaters do not represent the future of the company—or perhaps of any Hollywood content company. Earlier this year, AT&T’s WarnerMedia made a series of moves meant to boost its new streaming service, HBO Max. Comcast’s NBCUniversal, meanwhile, struck a deal with AMC Theatres to shorten the amount of time a movie plays in theaters before it’s allowed to be watched digitally. It is also investing heavily in its own nascent service, Peacock.

All these moves position legacy media companies to compete more directly with Netflix, which is closing in on 200 million subscribers amid a record year of growth. While consumers can and do pay for multiple streaming services, a more robust Disney streaming offering would pose a genuine threat to Netflix’s continued growth around the world.

It’s another sign that Disney believes streaming is its biggest global growth opportunity moving forward—and that releasing big movies on Disney+ instead of theaters isn’t only a pandemic-induced necessity. It’s just what Disney does now.

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