Pixar film Soul is pulled from theaters for debut on Disney+

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Pixar film Soul

SOUL, a new animated picture from Walt Disney Co.’s Pixar studio, will bypass theaters and appear instead on the company’s Disney+ streaming service, the latest setback for cinemas desperate for new movies to show.

The film will begin streaming on Christmas Day, Disney said Thursday. While Soul will appear exclusively on Disney+ in the US and Europe, it will be released in theaters in countries where the streaming service isn’t available.

With consumers reluctant to attend theaters during the coronavirus pandemic, Hollywood has struggled with how to release a growing inventory of big-budget films, leaving theaters with few major pictures to show.

Some big films, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.’s new James Bond feature No Time to Die, have been delayed. Others, such as Trolls World Tour from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, were made available online for purchase.

AT&T, Inc.’s Warner Bros. released the Christopher Nolan film Tenet in theaters only to see weak box-office revenue domestically.

Last month, Disney made Mulan available for streaming customers for an additional $30. While the company hasn’t released sales results for that film, it’s not been hailed as a great success. Unlike that picture, Soul will be available at no additional cost to Disney+ customers.

Disney has already gone the direct-to-streaming route several times this year, including a much celebrated release of Hamilton on July 3.

For chains like AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc., the biggest theater circuit, the 2020 calendar has little left on tap that’s big. Universal plans to release The Croods: A New Age in late November. Warner Bros. has one big December release: Wonder Woman 1984. Soul was originally scheduled to hit theaters Nov. 20.

Disney+, which launched in November of last year, is a $7-a-month service that has already signed up more than 60 million subscribers.

Soul tells the story of a middle-school band teacher, voiced by Jamie Foxx, who gets to play at the best jazz club in town. But before he can, fate takes him on a critical detour to another world.

“A new original Pixar film is always a special occasion, and this truly heartwarming and humorous story about human connection and finding one’s place in the world will be a treat for families to enjoy together this holiday season,” Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek said in a statement. — Bloomberg