Hulu nabs streaming rights for 56 Disney theatrical movies

Streaming service Hulu is bulking up its theatrical film catalog with the addition of 56 movies from the Walt Disney Co.

The licensing arrangement, announced by the two companies Tuesday, represents the first time Disney theatrical films will be made available to Hulu paid subscribers even though Disney has been a part-owner of the streaming service since 2009.  

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Under the deal, Hulu subscribers can stream such Disney favorites as “Lilo & Stitch,” “The Mighty Ducks,” “The Emperor’s New Groove” and “Muppet Treasure Island.”

Hulu also will have exclusive distribution to a handful of films including “Mulan,” “Pocahontas” and “Sister Act.” 

The deal is significant for Hulu, which has been scrambling to stock its catalog as deep-pocketed rivals Netflix and Amazon.com continue to expand their offerings to attract and retain customers.

Netflix, for example, in 2012 struck a lucrative arrangement with Disney for streaming rights for recent Disney releases. The exclusive deal kicked in this year, and four Disney movies, including “The Finest Hours” and “Zootopia,” now are offered through Netflix.

Family fare is in particularly high demand among the digital services because many parents prefer to have their children watch streamed programming, free of commercial messages, on a tablet or smartphone rather than ad-supported TV. Hulu also licenses some Disney Channel programming.

Hulu received feedback from users who wanted more feature films on the service, according to one company official. The Santa Monica-based service has spent much of the last year lining up deals with Hollywood studios for older movies to augment its catalog as it tries to compete more aggressively.

“Expanding our offering of top-rated kids and family programming has been a top priority for us,” Craig Erwich, head of content for Hulu, said in a statement.

Hulu also has film library deals with several other studios, including Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal Pictures. 

Hulu is owned by Disney, NBCUniversal, 21st Century Fox and Time Warner Inc. 

meg.james@latimes.com

@MegJamesLAT

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