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Marvel's Eternals may stream (possibly 'free') on Disney Plus before Christmas

Disney's CEO said Eternals and the animated movie Encanto will "come to the service after their exclusive theatrical runs," which keeps them in cinemas for 45 days at least.

Angelia Jolie stars in Marvels, the light from a magic sword illuminating her face
Marvel's Eternals opened in theaters, and only theaters, on Friday. 

Marvel's Eternals could stream on Disney Plus as soon as late December, possibly at no extra cost to subscribers, after it plays in theaters exclusively for at least 45 days. That's much faster than Disney's theatrical movies would hit the streaming service before the pandemic, when they typically took five to eight months to start streaming. 

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Wednesday that both Eternals and the company's upcoming animated movie Encanto would "come to the service after their exclusive theatrical runs," which keeps them in cinemas for 45 days at least. Chapek spoke during a conference call about Disney's fiscal fourth-quarter earnings. 

But it's possible that Disney may hold back Eternals from Disney Plus longer than that. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was also supposed to arrive on Disney Plus after its theatrical exclusive of at least 45 days, but its release on Disney Plus coming this Friday is about 70 days after it hit cinemas. 

Still, if Eternals does hit Disney Plus after its own 45-day window, that would put its earliest arrival on Disney Plus on about Dec. 20.

Typically, theatrical releases would move on to other formats -- such as Blu-ray, DVD and online rentals -- before reaching a streaming service. The company had already announced the 45-day theatrical windows for all its movies.

"Free" or not?

Eternals is expected to be streamable on Disney Plus at no added cost. (Some people refer to this as being available "free," but Disney Plus requires paid subscriptions.) 

Still, it's possible that Disney could tweak its $30 Premier Access system or introduce a new fee-based model for Eternals when it arrives on the service. While all movies on Premier Access so far hit Disney Plus the same day as theaters, Disney has stressed that it values flexibility in how it decides to release movies while circumstances keep changing during the evolving pandemic. 

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