Disney+ Executives Forfeit Integrity For Potential Box Office By Removing ‘Avatar’ Without Warning

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We’re officially in the “Bad Guy Kareem Daniel” era. Remember that pre-launch lie that content added to Disney+ would stream in perpetuity (save pre-existing contracts)? Well, as we’ve made quite clear through our record keeping they’ve been removing a LOT of content each month, mostly Fox films for pre-existing contracts, but plenty of others for no discernable reason including many recent Nat Geo titles and seasons, a Disney Channel Original Movie (The Other Me), nearly all holiday or musical specials, and the almost immediate removals of I Captured the King of the Leprechauns and The Shaggy Dog (2006). With Avatar, they’ve now set a dangerous new precedent to violate our trust by unprofessionally, quietly removing content “just because.”

While the news broke a few days ago, Variety’s article today confirms the film will return prior to the theatrical launch of Avatar: The Way of Water in December. One of the most important paragraphs in their article follows:

While the news might be annoying for fans who wanted to watch “Avatar” from the comfort of their homes, the film’s absence won’t be for very long. Sources confirmed that the film will return to Disney+ at an unspecified time before Dec. 16 — the release date for “The Way of Water.” In the meantime, the film remains available via rental services, including Youtube, Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video.

Wilson Chapman, Variety

If you think that it’s a reasonable thing to do, then this excerpt we’ve shared above is for you. Allowing people to “rent” the old version on TVOD instead of going to theatres but not allowing Disney+ users that pay a monthly fee to “stream” it tells consumers “our service and leadership are not here for you.” Removing the film without providing an “expiring” notice (as literally every other streaming service does) is unscrupulous. Disney has never provided expiring warnings, but we confirmed over a year ago that the code has been present on Disney+ since launch and they just won’t activate it. This untrustworthy behavior is something they’ve built 150 million subscribers on.

AVATAR TVOD RESULTS | You can pay 3.99 to rent Avatar, but you cannot pay 7.99 to stream it until the re-release leaves theatres.

As has become increasingly common lately for entertainment journalists, insiders, and creators to share via Twitter: Physical media remains the best solution.

All these companies (particularly WBD) have proven they do not care about YOU, the consumer, or the availability of their art. They have no integrity. As our pal at What’s on Netflix, Founder Kasey Moore, recently said to me: “Money is king.” Kareem Daniel is the one in charge of Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution which itself houses Disney Streaming, run by Michael Paull. Below him is a vacant Disney+ President position that has not been filled since he moved up in January. (Somehow nobody is covering this bizarre choice to leave it empty for over half a year or talking about who is covering his former duties.) Anyway, this all falls on Kareem or Michael’s shoulders.

These men somehow decided Avatar should “peace out” for a month or so to encourage people to see the remastered version in theatres. This is not appropriate nor respectful to the promises made in the first year of the service nor the relative trust built since. We truly do not believe anyone who would choose to revisit this film in theatres would have opted to stay home and stream the original version when the entire point is the theatrical experience and newly remastered cut.

Here is how they could have handled this situation with poise:

  1. Debut expiry warnings feature and provide a 1 month warning on the Avatar title page “Leaving August 16.”
  2. Replace the Avatar title page with one of their “Coming Soon” pages immediately afterwards that says “Coming to Disney+ October 14th, 2022.”
    • Better yet, enhance communication and transparency with the following message options: “Returning to Disney+ October 14th, 2022 remastered in 4K.” or “Remastered version coming to Disney+ October 14th, 2022.”

This would have been both the appropriate way to handle it and a way that would have produced significantly less anger from subscribers or harm to our trust. If I can immediately understand that, it’s alarming their executives can’t. It’s not confirmed that the film that returns will be the newly remastered 4K version, but it’s common sense. That’s a silver lining in all of this.

Avatar should have been replaced with a coming soon page.

Drew Ryan is a film, TV, and Disney geek. He has degrees in English, Student Personnel Administration, and Library & Information Science from Lawrence University, Concordia University-Wisconsin, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Interested in the minutia and licensing of streaming service content, he is always publishing lists, suggestions, and advocating for Disney’s missing library to be added to Disney+. Drew subscribes to Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, and Paramount+. You can find him waxing nostalgic over classic Disney Channel or geeking out over Marvel, CW shows, & Disney on Twitter.