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Disney's live-action adaptations of its animated films have been, almost without exception, massive box office successes. Several of them have broken the $1 billion mark at the global box office, and Mulan was widely expected to be another huge hit. The expectation was so strong that it was little shock that, rather than shift the film to VOD platforms or delay the film by a significant period, Mulan was originally playing the waiting game with the pandemic, with hopes to be one of the first major film releases in theaters once those theaters were open again. Unfortunately, what was hoped to be only a brief delay only continued to drag on, forcing Disney to make new plans.
In the end, Disney relented and released Mulan on Disney+, but as a Premium VOD product, meaning that it would cost viewers $30 in addition to having a current Disney+ subscription to watch it. It was a unique response to a very unique situation, but the real question remains. Did it work? Disney CFO Christine McCarthy was asked that exact question yesterday when she appeared virtually at the Citi 2020 Global Technology Conference, and while she did not go into specifics, it seems that so far, Disney is happy with the reception the film has seen. McCarthy told the conference...
We are very pleased with what we saw.
That response is obviously, pretty vague, but it's also unequivocally positive. If Disney was less than thrilled with the "opening weekend" numbers for Mulan, Christine McCarthy could have downplayed the results or just been even vaguer in describing the situation. It wouldn't make sense to play up the film's success too much if that wasn't justified, as at some point more specifics will surely be released. McCarthy told the conference (via Reuters) that more details would be released at the company's next earnings call, which will be in November.
Whatever numbers Mulan puts up will almost certainly look small compared to what a tentpole theatrical release can potentially do, but you have to assume that when Christine McCarthy says the company is pleased, she's speaking in a relative sense. This whole thing was very much a test balloon and while Disney certainly had expectations, it was anybody's guess how close to the mark they'd be. Of course, Mulan is starting from a strong position considering that Disney+ as a subscription service has already surpassed pretty much all expectations as far as subscriber numbers go, which means the number of people who could drop their Mulan money with the click of a button was not insignificant.
Disney has been clear to tell people not to draw any conclusions or have any expectations for future releases like this, at the same time, with the theatrical experience overall still very much an open question, the possibility that Mulan could be the first of several releases like this is always there.