"Mulan" to Premiere on Disney+, Skips US Theaters

A poster of the Walt Disney Studios' "Mulan" movie, which was going to be released on March 27, towers over an empty Hollywood Boulevard during the global outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Hollywood, Los Angeles Photo : REUTERS

"Mulan" will skip its U.S.theatrical run and will instead land on Disney+ next month for an additional fee. 

The long wait is over. U.S. fans will finally see the much-awaited "Mulan" live-action movie, but not in the theaters, though. The theatrical release of the film was delayed multiple times due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, Disney has announced that the "Mulan" remake will go straight to its streaming service on September 4, 2020, for an additional $29.99.

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"Mulan" is based on Disney's 1998 animated movie of the same title. It stars Liu Yifei, who plays the titular role. The film was first slated for release in March but was postponed. After pushing back several more times, the planned theatrical release was taken off Disney's calendar altogether. However, Disney still expected to push through with the international release of the film in markets where its Disney+ streaming service is not available. 

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"Mulan" joins other high-profile films to land straight to a streaming service or a video-on-demand (VOD) platform this 2020 because of the global health crisis. One such big movie that went straight to Apple TV+ "Greyhound" starring Tom Hanks. Also, the scheduled release of "Star Wars" and "Avatar" will be pushed back by one year. According to Variety, the "Avatar" sequels 2, 3, 4, and 5 are scheduled to premiere every other December starting 2022. The three "Star Wars" movies will be released every other December starting 2023.

"Mulan" going straight to Disney+, not a new business model

Chapek said that the company is looking at "Mulan" as a one-off instead of seeing it as a new business model. However, Disney will be looking at how the film is going to bring in new subscribers. It will also be interesting to see how transactions will fare with that price point. 

As to the premier access price of $29.99? Chapek explained that producing a movie with the kind of quality Disney is known for is fairly expensive. So, they thought of testing the offering on their platform instead of rolling it for free. The new premiere access window will allow Disney to capture the investment they got in the film. He added that the new offering is also a reasonably big incentive to sign up for Disney+. 

The announcement comes as Disney CEO Bob Chapek revealed during its Q3 earnings call that Disney+ now has 60.5 million subscribers globally. Hence, Disney+ has reached its global target subscribers since launching it last November 2019. In comparison, Netflix has around 193 million subscribers worldwide.

Moreover, Hulu now has a total of 35.5 million subscribers, while ESPN+ now had 8.5 million subscribers. Combined, Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu have surpassed 100 million global subscribers, Variety noted.

Disney also reported a net loss of nearly $5 billion for the third quarter of 2020. Overall revenue also dropped 42 percent to about $11.8 billion. Disney's parks and resort unit took a beating, and revenue fell 85 percent to $1 billion.  

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