The pandemic shows no signs of going away anytime soon, no matter how much politicians or businesses (or the average person) might wish otherwise. As such, movie theaters are still (mostly) shut down for the foreseeable future.
The short-term path for movie studios, for now, is to release movies straight to video-on-demand (VOD), as making some money is better than making zero. There’s a few holdouts: extremely big-ticket blockbuster films, such as the next “Fast and the Furious” sequel (pushed back to April 2021). Also, there are a few directors/producers who insist on a theatrical release, such as Christopher Nolan and his upcoming film “Tenet.” Said film’s apparently opening theatrically this month, no matter what.
Disney’s live-action “Mulan” remake is falling into the “VOD” category, as the Mouse House announced it’s releasing the film to Disney+. However, unlike the Disney+ releases of a few films several months ago, “Mulan” is being offered as a one-time purchase of $30. Customers will need a Disney+ subscription to access the film post-purchase, which is another $7/month (or $70/year).
Presumably Disney’s not releasing the film early through iTunes, Vudu, or other services to avoid losing even more money to any middlemen. Still, all of this raises plenty of questions:
- Will the film be available through the Disney-owned, cross-studio/cross-service Movies Anywhere platform?
- Do customers lose access to the film for good if they cancel Disney+?
- Will there be any extras included, or just the film?
- Will the general public eagerly pay $30 for a VOD film like this? On one hand, it’s steeper than other VOD releases like “Scoob.” On the other hand, it’s still less than it’d cost to take a family to see the film at the theater.
- Disney apparently had such VOD support built into Disney+ all this time?
- Depending on how well this “Mulan” Disney+ release does, will this inspire, say, AT&T/Warner Bros. to do the same thing with HBO Max? Or Netflix with, well, Netflix?
- Will “Mulan” make back its budget through this? CNBC reports Disney+ now has 60.5 million paying subscribers; meanwhile, “Mulan” has a budget of $200 million. It’d require about 6.7 million Disney+ subscribers (or 1 out of every 9) to buy “Mulan” to break even.
Finally, here’s the trailer for “Mulan.” Obviously we’re well past the original March 27 release date mentioned at the end.
Screenshot of main Disney+ page. (Disney / screenshot by author)