In a surprise development, Disney announced Tuesday that Mulan will be offered to Disney+ customers in the U.S. and other select markets at a premium price of $29.99 beginning Sept. 4.
Mulan is among a handful of Hollywood tentpoles that have seen their spring and summer release dates delayed several times due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and subsequent theater closures.
The decision to now bypass cinemas and debut the family adventure on Disney+ is a major blow for theater owners who were counting on playing both that film and Warner Bros.' Tenet upon reopening later this month. (Tenet, directed by Christopher Nolan, is set to launch overseas on Aug. 26, followed by select U.S. markets on Sept. 3.)
It is also the first time Disney has offered a film on Disney+ at a top-tier price, thus creating its own premium video-on-demand service at a time when PVOD is gaining strength across the industry because of COVID-19.
In addition to the U.S., Mulan will be made available to Disney+ customers in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and many Western European countries.
Niki Caro directed the live-action adaptation that stars Liu Yifei as Mulan, a young Chinese woman who disguises herself as a man to spare her elderly father from military service.
In territories where it doesn't debut on the streaming service, Mulan will be offered to cinemas.
Of all the major Hollywood studios, Disney has been viewed as the biggest proponent of theatrical windows. In a call with investors, Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek stressed that Mulan is a "one-off." Yet he also addressed the potential of PVOD.
“We’re very pleased to be able to bring Mulan to our consumer base that has been waiting for it for a long, long time as we've had to unfortunately move our theatrical date several times," Chapek said. "We are looking at Mulan as one-off as opposed to saying there is some new business windowing model that we are looking at."
"That said, we find it very interesting to be able to take a new offering to consumers at that $29.99 price and learn from it and see what happens not only in terms of the uptick of the number of subscribers we got on the platform, but also the number of transactions we get on that PVOD offering," Chapek continued.
Mulan was originally set to hit the big screen on March 27 but was subsequently delayed three more times before Disney unscheduled the pic.