COVID-19 has massively affected many industries, with the film industry being one of the first hit as cinemas shut down, effectively halting 2020’s Easter and Summer premieres. Mulan has often been cited as an example of the impact, with its initial theatrical premiere scheduled in March, only just being beat by the world going into lockdown by a matter of weeks. Having cost $200 million to make, Mulan was subsequently delayed to the end of July and then the end of August.
The announcement on Tuesday declared that US viewers would now have to pay a ‘rental’ fee of $29.99 to access the film, on top of the standard subscription fee for the streaming service. After some initial confusion, Disney+ clarified to Insider that the ‘rent’ would be continuous for as long as the viewer maintains a subscription to the service, akin to an add-on fee rather than a rental.
Disney had previously made a similar decision to move a film to Disney+ in select countries with Pixar’s Onward (2020)
Even then, the steep price tag is substantially more than a ticket cost and, in today’s age of streaming over physical disc, more than most people would pay to own a home release of a film. Disney CEO Bob Chapek has commented that they are experimenting with this way of premiering film, hoping to be able to "capture [the] investment" the company has in the film, and has stressed it is intended as a one-off rather than a new business model.
However, this has not completely assured concerns about the impact such a move could pose to the traditional movie theatre experience, with some outlets speculating a similar move may be made with the Black Widow release, especially if the results prove to be as profitable. Disney had previously made a similar decision to move a film to Disney+ in select countries with Pixar’s Onward (2020), although in that instance the film had premiered two weeks prior; Onward was included in the normal subscription fee without an additional cost.
In some respects, the high cost of the film seems to be the response Disney has taken to try and mitigate losses faced by Mulan’s repeated delays (with one report by Variety stating that Disney has lost around $300,000 in marketing fees every time the film was delayed), and the fact that while a cinema ticket can be charged per viewer, the one-off cost on Disney+ will allow the film to be watched multiple times by multiple people.
The UK Cinema Association has affirmed their belief that the film will be pulled from the UK too
In addition, movie studies are expected to continue to face issues with box office revenue. Despite this, Variety postulates this might still be "too rich" for many consumers who are facing pandemic related unemployment.
The announcement has stated the film will still have theatrical releases in countries where cinemas have either already started to re-open (notably China) or where Disney+ is not yet available. It is still unclear how this will affects the UK, as cinemas are currently in the process of opening this month (in time for the expected 21st August release). Nevertheless, the UK Cinema Association has affirmed their belief that the film will be pulled from the UK too; a move that Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, has described as "hugely disappointing and mistimed."
Feature Image: YouTube, Disney