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Why ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ is not streamed (but ‘Doctor Strange’ is)

Why ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ is not streamed (but ‘Doctor Strange’ is)

Spider-Man: No Way Home hit theaters in December, laying the groundwork for storytelling for Marvel fans to jump into Doctor Strange in Multiverse of Madness in May. But even though the latest Spider-Man movie went ahead of Strange in theaters by almost five months, Doctor Strange began streaming on Disney Plus in late June, long before No Way Home will be available for streaming anywhere.

To increase the confusion, Spider-Man: No Way Home does not appear in Disney Plus, although actor Tom Holland’s Spider-Man routinely appears in Disney’s Marvel films and Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed Strange in both films.

When and where will Spider-Man: No Way Home stream?

No Way Home will stream on Starz starting July 15th.

Although Spider-Man is part of the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is largely a Disney-created juggernaut, Sony is actually the studio behind No Way Home. And Sony has a completely different approach to streaming their movies.

Sony has an agreement in place for the films from 2021 to go to the premium cable network Starz first, where they are available to watch on the traditional channels as well as on the streaming app. So Starz will start streaming No Way Home on July 15th.

When and where is Doctor Strange available for streaming?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hit Disney Plus on June 22nd. It is available for streaming at no extra charge to all subscribers.

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It’s about 47 days after the wide release in theaters, much faster than the last two Marvel movies came to Disney Plus. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were in theaters 70 days before streaming on Disney Plus; for Eternals it was 68 days.

If Doctor Strange had stuck to that timeline as well, it would have been available on Disney Plus around mid-July. But with this film, Disney is moving closer to the norms of other large studios, which have largely gravitated to giving films a window of theatrical exclusivity that lasts for about 45 days.

Why do these release dates for streaming make no sense?

Both films may be part of MCU, but the streaming strategies for these films could not have been more different.

The main reason for the differences is that Marvel characters on film were divided between two different studios, Disney-owned Marvel Studios and Sony. Spider-Man, as a character, originates from Marvel, but Disney’s Marvel entered into a complicated licensing agreement with Sony for characters from the Spider-Man comics.

All stand-alone movies from the Spider-Man universe are made and distributed by Sony. Marvel takes care of the rest.

Each company can arrange to “borrow” the characters (and the actors who play them) from the other to be a part of their own MCU movies. That’s why Holland appears regularly in Disney’s Avengers movies, and Cumberbatch played Doctor Strange not only in Sony’s No Way Home, but also in Disney’s Multiverse of Madness. That’s also why you can stream some movies on Disney Plus with Holland as Spider-Man – but you can not stream some of the Spider-Man-specific movies there.

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On top of that, Disney and Sony have dramatically different streaming strategies.

Disney has its own streaming service; Sony does not. Disney has been flexible during the pandemic, constantly changing when (and if) movies went to the cinema and how long they stayed there before they were streamed. Sony and Starz, on the other hand, have been locked into an agreement reached many years ago, before the pandemic accelerated the speed with which new movies reach a streaming service.

Disney launched Disney Plus just about four months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Almost immediately, Disney recreated the service as a outlet for releasing great new movies. Some Disney movies – typically medium-budget live-action movies and Pixar movies like Luca and Soul – completely skipped theaters and were available for streaming on Disney Plus at no extra charge. For the biggest movies, Disney Plus introduced its Premier Access model to sell streaming access to new big screen movies for an additional $ 30 fee.

As society has reopened over the past year, Disney reintroduced theater exclusives. But Disney’s “windows” – the period after a movie opens in theaters but before it starts streaming – have been all over the map. Encanto spent a month in theaters before streaming. For Marvels Eternals, there were two. West Side Story – Steven Spielberg’s reimagining of the musical – came to Disney Plus about three months after it was played exclusively in theaters.

Now, with Doctor Strange hitting Disney Plus after 47 days, Disney is moving towards the industry’s new norm of giving movies about a month and a half as theater exclusive.

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But Sony’s streaming approach could not have been more different.

Unlike Disney, Sony does not run its own streaming service. So Sony’s strategy is to license its films so that others can broadcast and stream them, and collect revenue from these agreements in the process.

Sony and Starz entered into their agreement back in 2017, when it was standard that movies were exclusively in theaters for about 75 to 90 days and kept them from streaming for six to nine months after they came to theaters. Although the pandemic abolished film publishing traditions, Sony’s deal with Starz still follows these pre-pandemic standards.

That’s why Spider-Man: No Way Home takes so much longer to start streaming on Starz: The Timeline is an artifact from another movie era.

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