Disney’s live-action Mulan is finally here, and the company is releasing the movie in a wildly different fashion than anyone could have predicted: as a premium offering on its Disney+ streaming service.
Originally slated to come out on March 27, the film’s planned theatrical debut was upended by the Covid-19 pandemic as lockdowns closed movie theaters all over the world. Disney first delayed Mulan’s launch until July 24, then August 21, before taking it off the release calendar entirely.
But then, in early August, Disney executives announced that the movie would begin streaming on Disney+ on Friday, September 4, and that it would come with a fee attached: Subscribers who want to see it would have to pay an additional $29.99 to watch Mulan as a “premium” offering.
This is a big deal for Disney, which initially delayed the movie to ensure it could maximize the film’s profits with a theatrical release. But with US theaters still in a state of limbo heading into the fall, Disney’s updated rollout plans for Mulan will inevitably serve as a kind of trial balloon that will indicate whether at-home audiences are willing to pay $29.99 for three months of “premier access” to a movie they won’t even own. (Mulan will become available to all Disney+ subscribers for no additional fee on December 4.)
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has said that the company’s decision was driven by the pandemic and doesn’t represent a shift in Disney’s business model. But it’s easy to imagine that if Mulan is very successful on Disney+, execs will begin to ponder more permanent changes.
And in the meantime, fans can watch Mulan get down to business — albeit with a more serious approach than she did in the 1998 animated original — from the comfort of their couches.