• The International Union of Cinemas took aim at Disney after "Soul" was pulled from its theatrical release date of Nov. 20
  • The UNIC said Disney's decisions during the coronavirus pandemic, along with other studios, will hurt both cinemas and themselves
  • Cineworld said previously it would be closing over 650 theaters between the U.S. and U.K. amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

Europe’s International Union of Cinemas criticized Disney Monday for its decision to pull its upcoming Pixar film “Soul” from theaters in favor of a streaming release on Disney+ in December.

It’s the latest film to be pulled from cinemas, which are already struggling due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The UNIC represents cinemas and exhibitors across 38 European countries.

“Walt Disney Studios’ decision to release Soul directly onto their Disney+ streaming platform, depriving many audiences across Europe from seeing it on the Big Screen, has shocked and dismayed all cinema operators,” the UNIC said in a press release.

“Soul” was originally set to release on Nov. 20 in theaters, but Disney said on Thursday it would be pulling the film from theatrical release. It would instead release digitally through Disney + on Dec. 25, similar to “Mulan” over the summer. Disney added it would not be charging $29.99 as it did with “Mulan” and will be available for all subscribers to watch.

Disney chose to delay other tent-pole films, like “Black Widow” and “Jungle Cruise,” to 2021 and keep them as theatrical releases.

The delay also comes days after Cineworld said it would be closing over 650 of its theaters between the U.S. and United Kingdom, affecting roughly 45,000 jobs. Executives cited the ongoing risks from coronavirus, multiple delays, and the apparent failure for any major releases like “Tenet” to draw crowds back to the theater.

However, the UNIC argued this point in their press release and said cinema owners were doing everything possible to ensure moviegoers safety.

“The vast majority of cinemas across Europe and many regions of the world are now open and able to offer a safe and enjoyable return for audiences,” the UNIC said. “Cinema operators have invested massively in offering the safest possible experience to their audiences on the basis of a promising schedule of new film releases.”

It added the decision to pull “Soul” is another example of how some studios are harming themselves along with cinemas by either pulling films from theatrical release or delaying them into 2021.

“While cinemas will struggle to recover without new releases, so in truth too will our studio partners, whose decisions in such circumstances risk causing irreparable damage to key markets, many of whom will be less well-placed to support their films when they do decide to release them,” the UNIC said.

The Disney+ logo. AFP / Robyn Beck