In 2019, Disney acquired the iconic film studio 21st Century Fox, as well as its sister studio, Fox 2000, which focuses on small, independently-produced projects. 21st Century Fox has since been rebranded as 20th Century Studios, and Fox 2000 is on its way to permanent retirement. It has, however, one last release in its vault.
That is the mystery thriller The Woman in the Window, an adaptation of the AJ Finn novel starring Amy Adams. The film would have hit theaters this May, as an official finale for Fox 2000. Then, the coronavirus hit.
Now, with the May premiere canceled, Netflix is inching close to a deal to buy The Woman in the Window from Disney. If it closes the deal, Fox 2000’s final production will make its debut not on a cinema screen, but on laptops, iPads and streaming television.
The Year of At-Home Entertainment
While the film’s premiere might seem anticlimactic, it isn’t out of the ordinary in a year that’s been anything but ordinary. The Woman in the Window will be just the latest in a growing list of Hollywood titles to bypass a theatrical release altogether. Once theaters reopen, studios will have to attend to a backlog of big-budget blockbusters that have been held back from release on cinema screens. Midrange and smaller titles, meanwhile, will continue to release straight-to-streaming or video-on-demand.
But direct-to-home releases might not be a temporary fix in the year of COVID-19. In fact, Universal, another major studio, saw such success with its direct-to-home release of Trolls: World Tour, that it announced it would continue to release films directly to streaming even after the pandemic ended. This declaration, however, rankled AMC, the country’s largest cinema chain, which threatened to ban Universal titles from its theaters. The two companies have since struck a compromise, the window for Universal Pictures to play in AMC theaters is limited to 17 days before they can be released for at-home viewing.
Change is in the air
Still, the change might not completely spell the end for theatrical releases. After all, some big-budget films are truly designed for communal viewing in a large cinema. Whether due to the special effects, the surround sound, or the epic cinematography, some movies can’t be appreciated unless they’re viewed on a silver screen.
But the distinctions between film and television have been blurring for years. While it once seemed sophisticated to declare “I don’t own a television,” these days, to not watch TV is to not keep up with some of the most groundbreaking storytelling of our time. In fact, Netflix has now won both Emmys and Oscars, further proof that it is the content of a project, and not the mode in which it’s viewed, that determines its worth.
Either way, Netflix has yet to close a deal to stream The Woman in the Window, but hopes to shortly. In the meantime, you can always pick up the book on which it’s based. Remember books?