With the launch of Disney+ back in 2019, Disney relegated many of its CG-animated features to streaming with the hopes of building an audience for the new platform. While the move helped grow the initial number of subscribers, it also conditioned many to view Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios releases as movies we should just watch online through Disney+.
As a result, the studios, once box office behemoths, have struggled to replicate their pre-Covid success. Now it's not fair to blame Pixar's and Walt Disney Animation's theatrical struggles entirely on Disney+; the recent releases have largely received lackluster reviews and failed to strike an emotional connection with moviegoers. As The Super Mario Bros. Movie has shown us, families are still willing to go to the movies.
This brings us to Elemental, the 27th feature film produced by Pixar Studios and Disney's latest theatrical release. The movie arrives in theaters this weekend with the hopes that Disney can rebound from its 2022 box office flops, Lightyear (Pixar) and Strange World (Walt Disney Animation Studios).
Although movie theaters provide us with a nice escape from the summer heat, many simply prefer to just stay home now and enjoy the latest Disney release through Disney+. How long we'll have to wait for Elemental to come to Disney+ will likely depend on how it performs at the box office. Current projections have Elemental tracking for a modest $31 million to $41 million opening in the United States this weekend, with some estimating it will open on the lower end of that range. So what does that mean for the film's streaming release?
When does Pixar's Elemental come to Disney+?
Disney hasn't announced a streaming date for Elemental and probably won't do so anytime soon. If they announce a streaming date too early, it might encourage families to just stay home and wait for it to come to Disney+.
But that doesn't mean we can't predict when the movie will arrive on the streaming platform. All we have to do is look at Disney's most recent releases for an estimated release date.
Pixar releases two movies last year. Turning Red was relegated to Disney+ due to Covid, while Lightyear bombed in theaters before coming to Disney+ just 47 days later.
Strange World, a film from Walt Disney Animation Studios, was also released in theaters last year but was another major disappointment. It came to Disney+ just 30 days after its theatrical debut.
Based on Disney's handling of these films, if Elemental fails to draw big audiences in theaters, it could come to Disney+ anywhere between 30 and 45 days. This would put its Disney+ debut somewhere in late July or early August.
But Disney, under returning CEO Bob Iger, is trying to build its theatrical business, which means the company might give Elemental a longer theatrical run. If Disney hopes to re-establish Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios as box office brands, they need to re-condition moviegoers to not expect these movies to come to Disney+ so soon after they release in theaters.
A common timeline for Disney films is 45 to 90 days from theatrical release to streaming debut, with some of the company's more recent tentpole films even staying in theaters longer. Marvel's Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania took 90 days to stream, while Avatar: The Way of Water took six months. It all depends on how the movie performs, and Disney's overall balance between box office revenue and Disney+ subscriber retention.
I don't expect Elemental to take longer than 90 days to come to Disney+. Assuming Disney waits to the full three months, then expect it to start streaming in mid-September.