Disney has announced that they will be placing their film Mulan onto their streaming service Disney+ where it will be available for a $29.99 premium upcharge.
Mulan will be able for viewing starting on September 4 on Disney+ in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and many Western European countries. The film will still be released theatrically in countries where Disney has not launched their streaming service yet.
The announcement came as part of the company’s news release that it has now surpassed over 60 million subscribers to its Disney+ streaming service.
Mulan was one of the earliest victims of the coronavirus pandemic, as movie theaters closed down two weeks before the film’s original March 27 release. As the pandemic continued into the summer, the film’s release date was pushed back an additional three times before the studio made the move announced today. The most recent theatrical release date was actually set for the end of the month.
The move is both surprising and more than a bit disappointing. Trailers for the film have hinted that rather than be just a straight up adaptation of their 1998 animated feature, it took the basic story and turned it into something more along the lines of wuxia action film, presumably with a level of action that would make it appropriate for family viewing. And that kind of spectacle always plays better on a big screen.
What is surprising about the move is it happening because of the economics involved. Mulan was a costly movie for Disney to produce, with reports of its price tag ranging upwards to around $200 million, with a marketing budget of an additional $120 to $140 million. If those figures are correct, that puts the studio’s breakeven point for the film if it went with a theatrical distribution at around $500 to $600 million due to splitting the box office with the theaters.
But with Disney making the film available on their own streaming platform, albeit for an additional amount, they suddenly don’t have to split any of the film’s income with anyone else. And while they are still having to pay distribution fees in the countries where they haven’t rolled out Disney+ yet, the amount that they need to clear before turning a profit on the film has substantially been lowered. And that is just good risk mitigation from a business standpoint.
The coronavirus has hit multiple sectors of the Disney empire fairly hard. During the same earnings call it was revealed that closure of Disney’s theme parks around the world have cost the company $3.5 billion in losses. Meanwhile, Marvel Studios has had to push back the release of all of their Phase 4 movies and television series. Originally their new arc of films was to have started in May with Black Widow, which has been moved down the theatrical release calendar to November.