Disney’s live action Mulan has finally been given a firm release date after being pushed multiple times due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The film will bypass cinemas to release direct to Disney+ on 4 September, but viewers will have to pay $29.99 on top of their subscription fee to watch the film (pricing outside the US has not been confirmed).
This comes in a surprising move from Disney. Given the multiple holdouts since Mulan‘s initial planned release date in March, it seemed that the company was determined to give the film its planned cinematic release. With the pandemic showing no signs of slowing down in the US, Disney pulled Mulan from the release schedule indefinitely at the end of July.
With a $200 million dollar budget to recoup and Disney‘s profits down due to the pandemic, it is crucial for them that Mulan is a financial success. It remains to be seen whether viewers will be willing to pay the extra $29.99 on top of their Disney+ subscription at a time when many people are facing severe financial hardships themselves. Given that the animated version is already available on the platform for no extra cost, it seems a gamble that viewers will want to pay the significant difference to watch the live action film.
The move also comes as a blow to suffering cinemas who were relying on big releases like Mulan to get people back through their doors. UK Cinema Association Chief Executive Phil Clapp said: “With cinemas across the UK now continuing to reopen and welcome back their customers, the decision of Disney yesterday to put Mulan on their Disney+ service and not into cinemas will be seen by many as hugely disappointing and mistimed.”
There is also the worry that if Mulan performs poorly, it will be a setback for Asian and Asian American representation on screen. Mulan‘s cast is made up entirely of Asian and Asian-American actors and if it tanks, then big corporations like Disney will potentially have no incentive to make future blockbuster films with Asian leads. It’s also one of the biggest blockbusters helmed by a female director (albeit a white woman, but that’s a whole different argument) and again, if it tanks, that could close off opportunities for women behind the camera in future.
Releasing films that were intended for cinema releases on streaming for a slightly inflated price is not new: films that were given a premiere on Amazon were released to rent for between £9.99-£15.99 during the pandemic. But that is still decidedly less than the price Disney is setting for Mulan, and those films have now been dropped back down to Amazon’s usual renting price of £4.99.
Considering however, that Disney moved up the release of Hamilton, a huge release, over a year earlier than initially planned and that was available on the service for merely the price of a subscription, Mulan‘s hefty price tag seems hard to justify. If Mulan does well, it seems inevitable that premium pricing for direct to streaming releases will become the new normal.
Words by Jo Elliott
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