Disney To Release Mulan On Disney Plus, Bypass Theatrical Exclusivity in the U.S.

Image Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

In an earnings call with investors, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced that their upcoming feature Mulan has been pulled from theaters in the U.S. and will instead debut on streaming platform Disney Plus. The film will be available to rent through Disney Plus at a price point of $29.99—in addition to the cost of subscribing to Disney Plus—starting September 4. 

Mulan—a live-action reimagining of the 1998 animated film—was, pre-pandemic, to debut in theaters on March 27 as a key part of Disney’s Q1 release calendar. The film was subsequently moved to July 24, placing it as the second major Hollywood tentpole (after Warner Bros.’ Tenet) to be released to theaters. Tenet and Mulan both proceeded to shift down the release calendar as Covid-19 continued to spread. Mulan was dated for August 21 before Disney removed it from the schedule as part of a wide-raging calendar adjustment that saw major titles (such as the Avatar sequels and a new Star Wars trilogy) get later release dates. Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, a Searchlight Pictures release, was removed from the schedule along with Mulan. Today’s announcement has Mulan bypassing an exclusive theatrical release in the U.S. entirely.

By contrast, Warner Bros. has opted for a platform release for Tenet, which will debut in international territories starting August 26. Tenet will debut in certain U.S. cities starting September 3.

Chapek also noted that Disney is still planning to release Mulan in some international markets. He stated that the shift of Mulan to Disney Plus is to be regarded as a “one-off,” rather than an indicator of a “new business windowing model that we’re looking at.”

Disney previously pushed a filmed version of the Tony-winning musical Hamilton, initially scheduled for theatrical release on October 15, to Disney Plus, though unlike Mulan subscribers did not need to pay an additional fee to access it. The Mulan rental fee, per Chapek, indicates an intention on behalf of Disney “to try to recapture some of that investment that we’ve got” in the tentpole film.

Disney’s planned theatrical release of The New Mutants on August 28 was not changed in today’s call. With Mulan now bypassing theaters, the second Disney release to release in cinemas in the U.S. is expected to be Black Widow, scheduled for November 6.

Edit – August 5, 2020 11:56 AM EST

UNIC, the trade body that represents cinema trade associations and operators in 38 European countries, has issued the following statement:

As European cinema operators finally emerge from a period of extended closure due to the Covid-19 outbreak and work hard to welcome audiences back, the focus of the entire industry must be on ensuring that recovery can happen and that audiences return to enjoy the unique experience of watching films on the big screen.

While many on the distribution side have indicated that “we are all in this together,” recent events make it clearer than ever that this sentiment must be backed by actions as well as words.

Specifically, new content must be released in cinemas first and observe a significant theatrical window, both elements being essential for the survival and health of every part of the European (and indeed global) cinema industry.

A “cinema first” strategy for film releases—accompanied by a significant period of theatrical exclusivity—is a proven business model, and crucial for ensuring that audiences can enjoy a diverse range of films. This system was the foundation for a record-breaking 2019, with 1.34 billion admissions and €8.7 billion earned at the box office in Europe alone.

The entire sector faces unprecedented challenges. More than ever, decisions across the industry need to be made with a long-term perspective. If our studio partners oblige cinemas to wait until the sector emerges from the crisis in the U.S. before supplying new content, it will prove too late for many European cinemas and their dedicated workforce.

All who depend on the success of the film industry should commit to ensuring the future health of the whole sector. By doing so, they will ensure that the wider film industry and European cinemas—from one-screen independents to art-houses and multiplexes—will recover and return from this crisis stronger and more resilient than ever.