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Liu Yifei as Mulan in Mulan (2020)

After numerous delays due to the global health crisis, Disney announced yesterday during its 3Q earnings call that Mulan will be headed to Disney+, for a premium rental fee of $29.99. In addition, the film will also be released theatrically, on the same day, wherever possible. Many were surprised to hear that the company had opted out of a traditional theatrical release. Still, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has discussed the reasoning behind sending the live-action remake directly to the streaming service.

While speaking during the earnings call, Bob Chapek expressed the company’s belief that releasing Mulan through Disney+ will allow the film to reach a multitude of viewers who are unable to go to movie theaters at this time. In addition, he also feels that having such a major film on the streamer will help attract new customers:

We see this as an opportunity to bring this incredible film to a broad audience currently unable to go to movie theaters, while also further enhancing the value and attractiveness of a Disney+ subscription with this great content. Given the rapid changes in consumer behavior, we believe it’s more important than ever that we continue to grow our direct relationship with our customers.

After Mulan was forced to move from its original March release date, Disney still held fast to a theatrical release, with the film eventually being marked as one of the high-profile projects that would potentially bring audiences back to the theater. Now that Disney has decided to release it via streaming service, many are wondering if this will become a trend for certain releases from the company. Bob Chapek, however, contends that Mulan’s method of release is a “one-off,” though he also mentioned that Disney will be watching the reception to the premium release closely:

We’re very pleased to be able to bring Mulan to our consumer base that’s been waiting for it for a long, long time, as we’ve had to unfortunately had to move our theatrical date several times. We’re fortunate that we have the opportunity to bring it to our own direct-to-consumer platform so consumers can enjoy it. But we’re looking at Mulan as a one-off, as opposed to trying to say there’s a new business windowing model that we’re looking at. So Mulan is a one-off. That said, we find it very interesting to be able to take a new offering, our premiere access offering, to consumers at that $29.99 price, and learn from it and see what happens not only in terms of the uptake of the number of the subscribers that we get on that platform, but the actual number of transactions we get on the Disney+ platform that we get on that PVOD offering.

This certainly creates an interesting path for Disney moving forward. While Mulan’s release is being called a one-off, you have to wonder if Disney would consider continuing this method if it proves successful.

The COVID-19 pandemic is proving to have last effects on the film industry, particularly when it comes to the way in which films are released. The release of Trolls World Tour led to a falling out between AMC and Universal Pictures. However, that relationship was soon re-established in a major way when both entities entered a historic agreement that would shorten the established exhibition window to 17 days. Not only that, but AMC is also set to receive a share of revenue from Universal’s PVOD rental sales.

We’re definitely entering a new era when it comes to PVOD releases and the relationships between theater chains and film studios. Universal has made its position quite clear and, with Disney’s Mulan decision, it’ll be interesting to see how things continue to progress.

Mulan will be released in theaters and on Disney+ VOD Premium on September 4.

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