Mulan will premiere on Disney+ and in some international theaters on Sept. 4, according to Deadline. The news was broken by Disney CEO Bob Chapek during the company’s earnings call on Tuesday (Aug. 4).
But the announcement comes with a caveat: viewers who wish to view director Niki Caro’s live-action remake of the animated 1998 historical adventure on Disney’s streaming service will pay a premium of $29.99, on top of their monthly or yearly subscription fee.
Mulan was initially set to open last spring, just as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold of the world and shut down theaters around the globe. The film was moved first to July and then Aug. 12, playing a game of chicken with Warner Bros. Pictures’ Tenet to see which one would herald the reopening of theaters first.
But the continuing spread of the virus threw those plans into disarray, with Tenet moving to Sept. 3 and Mulan being taken off the release schedule temporarily — the same day that AMC and other major theater chains announced that they would begin reopening in late August. Now Mulan’s online premiere is going head to head with Tenet’s theatrical release, which is likely to be limited in scope.
Chapek said that Mulan will premiere on Disney+ in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and a “number of other countries,” although it will also roll out in theaters internationally where venues are open (like China) or where Disney+ has yet to be launched.
Adding that the premiere of Mulan on Disney+ would be a “one-off,” Chapek said that Disney is still planning a traditional theatrical arrival for its next big picture, Marvel’s Black Widow, on November 6.
Chapek said that Disney will “find it very interesting to take that $29.99 offering and learn from it,” suggesting that charging a premium for Mulan on Disney+ is an experiment that could have effects on future releases depending its success.
He remarked, “Disney blockbuster tentpoles can be fairly expensive to make and produce, so rather than roll it into the subscription we thought we’d give it a try to recapture some of that investment. Such an offering not only brings in revenue from PVOD, but also acts as a stimulus to sign up for Disney+.”
Disney+ itself has been one of Disney’s few success stories in a year that the company’s bottom line has been devastated by the pandemic, with the service signing up 60.5 million subscribers and beating estimates for its first year.
Although it’s hard to say how much overlap there is between the audiences for the more adult-skewing Tenet and the family-oriented Mulan (as well as audiences just starved to see anything new), it will be interesting to see whether Mulan throws a big wet blanket on Tenet director Christopher Nolan’s attempt to save theaters with his sci-fi action thriller, which he has resolutely insisted come out on the big screen no matter what.
And if Mulan works as a premium VOD offering, will that open the door for Disney to eventually do the same with Black Widow and other movies (we’re looking at you, The New Mutants) if the pandemic continues to keep audiences away from movie theaters? Will Warner Bros. switch Tenet to a PVOD offering on HBO Max if the box office fails to take off in a meaningful way? Will other streamers explore whether they can charge a premium for special titles?
As with every other decision being made in these strange times, Disney’s actions today open up a whole new set of questions…but the one question that has now been answered is when and how you can finally watch Mulan.