The film, about a music teacher (Jamie Foxx) whose soul becomes separated from his body, will premiere instead on Disney’s streaming service, Disney+.
It reads: “The vast majority of cinemas across Europe and indeed many regions of the world are now open and able to offer a safe and enjoyable return for audiences.
“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. Yet again, however, they find a distributor delivering another blow.”
The decision to pursue a digital release for Soul follows a spate of postponements and theatrical cancellations for many of the year’s biggest blockbusters.
Disney’s live-action Mulan was released directly as a premium film on Disney+, while the forthcoming James Bond thriller No Time to Die recently pushed back its release date from November to April 2021.
Shortly after No Time to Die’s postponement, several UK cinema chains announced changes to their operating schedule, with Cineworld and Picturehouse closing entirely for the foreseeable future.
Odeon and Vue have subsequently announced that they are reducing opening days in several of their venues.
The UNIC statement also says: “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.
“Decisions to postpone titles, to bypass cinemas and the value they create are extremely disappointing – and concerning – and will only delay the day that the whole industry is able to put this crisis behind it… It is no exaggeration to say that by the time some studios decide that the moment is right to release their films, it may be too late for many European cinemas.”
Soul will be released on Disney+ on 25 December 2020.