To be fair, Disney didn't dump "Prey" as much as protect their bottom line.

Even if you assume Prey would have done well in theaters (and it would have taken some nimble marketing to make that happen) and even if you accept that that a theatrical release always increases the value of a movie (and I think it's a situational decision), Disney's decision to release Prey directly to Hulu was a smart strategic decision.

It's a typically complicated Hollywood story. When Disney purchased Fox, there was an output deal in place that sent Fox movies exclusively to HBO Max for their pay-one TV window. That deal runs through the 2022 release year, but last winter, Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution and WarnerMedia amended their current output agreement and agreed to share about half of the 2022 titles on both platforms, beginning with the family comedy Ron's Gone Wrong (remember that one?). HBO/HBO Max retained pay-one TV window exclusivity on the other half of the titles, but Disney negotiated to specifically carve out Prey. WarnerMedia apparently agreed to allow that movie to be released by Disney, but it had to premiere on streaming and not have a theatrical release.

So the irony is that releasing Prey into theaters would have been great news for WarnerMedia. They would have been able to extract something from Disney in order for them to agree to the change and then once the theatrical release of Prey had ended, the movie would go straight to HBO Max.

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