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Mulan to skip theaters, debut on Disney+ for premium cost in September

By Benjamin Bullard
Mulan poster

After months of seeking the right window during the coronavirus pandemic to get Mulan into theaters, Disney has decided to bring honor to us all via its far-reaching TV platform instead.

According to Variety, the live-action version of the 1998 animated favorite will hit the Disney+ streaming service, added onto subscribers’ regular monthly fees as a $29.99 premium standalone film.

The movie is expected to land at Disney+ on Sept. 4, via the report. As of last month, Disney’s small-screen platform registered a reported 60.5 million subscribers, after launching in November of last year.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek reportedly disclosed Disney’s big decision during a call with investors today, also noting the platform’s early success with The Mandalorian, which earned 15 Emmy nominations in its debut season. 

Along with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, Mulan has been a bellwether tentpole movie by which studios (and eager moviegoers) have gauged the potential timeline for theaters nationwide, shuttered by the pandemic, to reopen. Already well received by critics and only days away from lighting up the box office with a planned March 27 premiere, Disney made a last-minute decision, as the pandemic took hold in the U.S., to take the movie off its release schedule. Along with the rest of the film industry, the company has spent the past four months assessing the right time to bring the film to the big screen. 

The pandemic’s persistence has kept theater doors closed through what would otherwise have been a blockbuster summer movie season. Anticipating theater reopenings that still haven’t materialized, Disney already had rescheduled Mulan’s big-screen release date more than once, postponing the film first to July 24; then again until Aug. 21. 

While that Aug. 21 release date so far hasn’t been specifically addressed in the wake of the Disney+ announcement, Chapek reportedly indicated that the movie’s Sept. 4 small-screen debut would indeed be serving as its premiere. He also reportedly emphasized that the Disney+ release of Mulan will be a one-and-done phenomenon, saying the company views it “as a one-off, as opposed to saying there’s some new business windowing model that we’re looking at.”

Even so, with the 60.5 million subscribers Chapek reportedly referenced in Tuesday’s call, Disney+ evidently poses a viable first-run option for big-budget films like Mulan that can’t find a home in theaters amid ongoing uncertainty about when the box office will get back to business. Disney’s move to opt for a home release comes only days after Universal and AMC Theaters agreed to a deal that would allow select Universal new releases to hit premium digital platforms within 17 days of their theatrical premieres. 

Back when the movie was set to hit theaters in March, critics were eager for the rest of the world to see Mulan. Early reactions praised the live-action remake as a respectful homage to the animated classic, noting that the absence of its predecessor’s musical numbers (as well as beloved dragon sidekick Mushu, voiced in the original by Eddie Murphy) ended up being appropriate for the new version’s more sweeping and serious story. 

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