Mulan will be available to regular Disney+ subscribers this December
James R | On 04, Sep 2020
Today sees Mulan premiere on Disney+, in a move that will see the live-action remake bypass cinemas and head straight to Disney’s own digital platform.
It’s a bold move, one that has ruffled the feathers of exhibitors – and understandably so – but has enabled Disney to start generating income from its long-awaited film immediately as theatres only begin to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Disney is charging a premium VOD price of £19.99 in what has labelled “Premier Access” – essentially, a way for Disney+ subscribers to get to see the film earlier than normal, for a one-off cost. After paying that fee, subscribers can watch Mulan for as long as they continue have an active Disney+ account.
“We’re looking at Mulan as a one-off as opposed trying to say that there’s a new business windowing model,” CEO Bob Chepak said earlier this year, although if the strategy works, there’s no ruling out a repeat run.
The main question, though, is what exactly subscribers who pay the fee get for their money – how long is the “Premier Access” window? Now, Disney has confirmed that it’s three months: Mulan will stream as a regular Disney+ title in December, with no extra charge. That will happen on 4th December worldwide, when Disney’s website promises it will be available “to all Disney+ subscribers”.
The only exception to this will be France, where the film will not be available at all as an early-access title, due to the country’s restrictive laws on online distribution.
Disney+ to release Mulan as premium VOD title
4th August 2020
Disney will release Mulan directly on Disney+ in a number of territories, the corporation has announced, after multiple delays to the film’s theatrical release.
The movie, directed by Niki Caro and boasting both Jet Li and Donnie Yen in its cast, brings the tale of China’s legendary warrior to life, as one fearless young woman risks everything out of love for her family and her country. When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she fights to earn the respect of a grateful nation and a proud father.
The film has been one of Disney’s highest profile live-action remakes of its own animated titles, but its plans were knocked sideways by the coronavirus pandemic. What was planned to be a global theatrical release in March was pushed back to July when cinemas intended to start reopening, then jumped to August before being removed from Disney’s release schedule altogether. Now, Disney has announced it will experiment with a “premiere access” release for the blockbuster.
That means the House of Mouse will follow in the footsteps of Universal and other distributors by creating a new Premium VOD-style window within Disney+. The fledgling VOD platform, which costs £4.99 a month, will ask subscribers to pay an additional price of $29.99 for the film within the platform – not as a rental, but essentially as a way to get early access to the movie, which would eventually arrive on Disney+ for general subscribers at a later date. Until other premium 48-hour rentals, this access would not expire, but would last for as long as users have a Disney+ subscription.
The plan will take place in the USA, Canada, New Zealand “and a number of countries” on 4th September.
“We’re looking at Mulan as a one-off as opposed trying to say that there’s a new business windowing model,” CEO Bob Chepak confirmed during Disney’s Q3 earnings call today.
“As you know it’s fairly expensive to produce for consumers the quality we’re known for. Rather than simply rolling (the movie) into a free offering, we thought we can test anything when you have your own platform,” he added. “We’re trying to establish a new premiere access window to capture that investment we got (in the film).”
He noted that Disney will “have a chance to learn from this”, but that Disney hoped to get a Premium VOD revenue as well use the film as a “fairly large stimulus to sign up for Disney+”.
The question now is whether Disney will be rolling out this approach to the UK along with the above countries, and, as with Mulan’s release so far and multiple other premium VOD titles, details aren’t immediately forthcoming, as navigating the global streaming and theatrical market mid-pandemic has proven a complex and uncertain challenge. Deadline reports that “Disney will be releasing the film theatrically in certain markets where the studio currently has no announced launch plans for Disney+ and where theaters are open”. With cinemas in the UK cautiously beginning to reopen at present, that may mean the odds lean towards Mulan hitting the big screen on UK soil. Stay tuned for more details.