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Disney+ to release Mulan as premium VOD title

Staff Writer

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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 rental price of $29.99 for the film within the platform.

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.

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