As the launch of Disney Plus looms closer, it seems the Mouse House is quietly putting its newly acquired Fox films into the famed “Disney Vault,” and this apparently doesn’t bode well for anyone keen to see classic titles like Alien and The Princess Bride on the big screen.
A new piece from Vulture observes a recent trend of Disney refusing requests to screen older Fox features in for-profit theaters. Though the conglomerate officially declined to comment, it seems an increasing number of film programmers and theater managers are hearing from studio contacts that Fox’s extensive back catalogue is suddenly off limits, and some have even been informed that their previous bookings have now been revoked.
The article also relays word from a film distributor with firsthand knowledge of Disney’s policy that classic Fox movies will still be allowed to screen at nonprofit cinemas, and some exceptions may be granted to for-profit theaters on special occasions like anniversaries. Nonetheless, it’s said that each instance would be considered on a case-by-case basis, and so far, it looks like Disney’s policy is being applied in different ways at different locations.
Though it’s become a popular theory that Disney is trying to push filmgoers to subscribe to their streaming services in order to access all this content, Vulture suggests that this is simply business as usual for the company as they continue to prioritize new titles and maintain their dominance in theatrical exhibition.
While the Disney Vault strategy has long been applied to the company’s own back catalog, this is a new development for Fox films in the wake of this year’s merger, and comes as a blow to theaters that have long been in the tradition of screening vintage Fox titles, from The Sound of Music to The Thin Red Line and beyond.