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Source: China State Council Information Office 3

The repeatedly delayed Disney blockbuster-to-be “Mulan” will give up its planned theatrical release in North American market and go directly to Disney Plus. But there is prospect that it will still open in theaters in China.

The live-action remake based on the ancient Chinese legend “Hua Mulan” was seen by many theaters as a tentpole production to revive cinema businesses in America amid COVID-19. The Walt Disney Company’s latest decision is a major blow to movie theaters therefore. 

During Disney’s third quarter earnings call on Tuesday, it was announced that “Mulan” will be premiering on Disney Plus for the American and other international markets where its streaming platform is available. 

Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek said that it was important to find new avenues of distribution during the pandemic and that “in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and a number of other countries, we will be offering the epic ‘Mulan’ on premiere [online] access beginning Sept. 4, with the price point being $29.99 in the U.S.” Chapek also revealed that there are currently 60.5 million global subscribers for Disney Plus. 

However, Disney will release the film to theaters in those markets where the studio currently has no announced launch plans for Disney Plus and where theaters are open, such as China, the second-largest film market in the world and the country providing the source of the “Mulan” story and many of the film’s leading actors. 

Regarding pricing “Mulan” at nearly $30 for a premium rental, Chapek explained this was a valuable chance to test out entirely new early video-on-demand (VOD) model, which will help drive subscribers. Unlike the rest of the content on Disney Plus, “Mulan” won’t be available directly to subscribers. 

Consumers in the U.S. and other territories will have to pay the rental of $29.99 on top of the streaming service’s monthly subscription fee of $6.99. 

“As you know it’s fairly expensive to produce for consumers the quality for which we’re known. Rather than simply rolling out the movie as a free offering, we thought you can test anything when you have your own platform. We’re trying to establish a new premiere access window to recapture the investment we put in (to the film). We’ll have a chance to learn from this,” Chapek said.

But he added during a round of questioning with financial analysts that, “We’re looking at ‘Mulan’ as a one-off as opposed trying to say that there’s a new business windowing model that we’re looking at.”

Originally scheduled to open on March 27, “Mulan” was a highly-anticipated major theatrical releases for the year. The film is an adaptation of Disney’s 1998 animated classic of the same name. According to folk legend, Hua Mulan lived during a tumultuous era in Chinese history more than 1,400 years ago. She disguised herself as a man to serve in the army in place of her aged father and fight for her country.  

“Mulan” cost $200 million to make, and many millions more to promote. Disney held a lavish red-carpet premiere at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles on March 9. However, just three days later, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Disney to postpone the release plan. On July 23, it took “Mulan” off the calendar temporarily as its previous and very last planned theatrical date of Aug. 21 approaching. 

Ironically, when Disney delayed “Mulan” for the third time in June, Disney’s co-chairman and chief creative officer Alan Horn and co-chairman Alan Bergman highlighted the necessity to see the film on the big screen.

“Director Niki Caro and our cast and crew have created a beautiful, epic, and moving film that is everything the cinematic experience should be, and that’s where we believe it belongs — on the world stage and the big screen for audiences around the globe to enjoy together,” said Horn and Bergman in a statement.

Just like “Crazy Rich Asians”, “Mulan” is one of a few large-scale releases from major Hollywood studios to feature an entirely Asian cast, including the title role taken by Chinese actress Liu Yifei, and other Chinese stars such as Gong Li, Donnie Yen and Jet Li.

Disney’s decision could also cause concern over possible piracy, and it comes just days after AMC Theatres and Universal announced they had reached an agreement that would enable some movies to debut on home entertainment platforms within 17 days of their theatrical debut. The two companies hailed the move as “an important evolution” in film distribution, which has stunned investors.

MIL OSI China News