Free Guy Director Explains Why The Movie Isn’t Releasing On Disney Plus

Free Guy
Image via 20th Century Studios

Hollywood has become more reactive than ever during the Coronavirus pandemic, beginning last March when the theatrical industry was ground to a standstill. Movies were delayed by anywhere up to a year, others were sent straight to VOD or streaming, while the entire Warner Bros. lineup for 2021 were given hybrid releases.

Disney Plus Premier Access has only seen a few titles made available day and date, but the results have been mixed to say the least. Theater owners blasted the Mouse House for taking Mulan away from them, only for the live-action remake to stir up a ton of controversy and bomb in China after the creative team bent over backwards to ensure it appealed to the country.

Raya and the Last Dragon stayed in the box office Top 10 for sixteen weeks, Cruella didn’t hit the commercial heights that were expected, Dwayne Johnson said it was important for Jungle Cruise to be an option for people to watch at home, and Scarlett Johansson ended up suing the studio for breach of contract. It’s a double edged sword, then, but in a new interview Free Guy director Shawn Levy explained why his blockbuster remained a theatrical exclusive.

“I think, well two things, one is Disney shortly after they bought Fox, they came to a test screening of Free Guy. And I say this as someone who, whether it was Real Steel or Ryan had this experience on Deadpool 2 where, we’ve had movies that have tested euphorically, Free Guy tested like nothing to a number that neither Ryan nor I had seen and the Disney brass was there. So they always said through the whole pandemic, when we would say, are you sure you don’t want to just show people, because it’s done.

They really always felt that if Free Guy can get its moment in movie theaters and the audience can feel that experience, that it could catch a tailwind and maybe even justify the existence of other stories within a new franchise, it’s a big swing. I’ve seen the movie play in theaters and certainly every director would rather have it seen big and loud. So selfishly, narcissistically, the director of me loves that. But COVID permissive, permitting the hope is that that collective experience can bring the movie to life in the culture the way we feel it can. And that was always the position that Disney had.”

Let’s hope that the hybrid model doesn’t become a permanent fixture of the cinematic landscape, because the theatrical experience has been the lifeblood of the business for over a century, and nothing compares to seeing a brand new movie for the first time on the biggest possible screen. Business has been down for a long time now, but Free Guy has been gathering strong reviews and plenty of buzz, so fingers crossed it enjoys a stellar opening weekend and justifies the decision to keep it away from streaming.