The best way to start, is to repeat the phrase that’s almost entirely worn out by now: “we’re in uncharted territory”. Of course, this time it pertains to another movie in 2020 that’s foregoing the theatrical format (as they’re closed) and surveying the home video market. The only difference in this case, is that it’s Disney taking a swing at bat and their plans for Niki Caro’s live-action take on Mulan. A plan that’s likely the be the biggest barometer on what lengths people are willing to go, to view a new movie. There’s a chance Trolls World Tour‘s moment in the sun, could be fading.
Earlier this year, back in March, Disney was one of the first studios to combat the closing of theaters, by launching a film early on VOD. Or PVOD, with the P meaning “premium”. Pixar’s latest, Onward, had only gotten a couple weeks in theaters, before the lights went off. Though it initially placed a $20 tag on the film, via services like Vudu, iTunes, Google and Amazon Prime, it landed on Disney+ a couple weeks later. For this go around, they’re upping the ante. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mulan will be available exclusively on Disney+, starting on September 4…for $30. Even if you already have a subscription to the streaming service.
A move like this is giant. The $20 tag that got placed on Bloodshot, The Hunt, Emma. and the aforementioned Onward, was seen already as high by some. Yet with the “will they, won’t they” game theaters were playing with Tenet and the majority of the Fall 2020 line-up still in chaos, a choice needed to be made. Disney putting its foot down, is a test. By announcing the $30 price a month ahead of time, they can gauge public opinion. If the response is overwhelmingly negative? Well, they just drop the price to $20, get a slight applause and more people check it out. Should the blowback be minimal, they soldier on and count the money in the end. It’s the larger ramifications of the move, that could lead to a larger ripple effect, in the coming months.
The gamble that’s being played here, at $30, is the possible immediate future for cinema. While Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek, cited by THR in an investor call saying this is a “one off”, you can’t imagine a major corporation is taking that seriously. On the off chance that Mulan rakes in more than the film’s $200 mil budget, eyes will certainly open wide. Having diverse subsidiariesunder their umbrella, Disney could try and see how many films they’d could viably release this way. Not to mention, they’ve got the similarly budgeted Black Widow, just waiting in the wings. If you think the studio wants to go a year without Marvel offering in people’s faces, think again.
All the speculating, theorizing and flailing aside, it comes down to you, dear readers. Are you interested in shelling out $30, as a premium for a new AAA film, in your home? At a time where other theatrical offerings, like Bill & Ted Face The Music are at $20? Around when do you comfortably see yourself returning to a movie theater? There isn’t an easy answer to any of those questions. Mostly because it’s going to vary on a case by case basis. 2020 is giving way to a new world. That’s been said a lot and it won’t go a way for a bit. The most interesting element though, is that you have a big voice, in how things are shaped. Starting (as is our focus here) with the movies. It may seem small, but will likely leave a lasting impact, whichever way things go.
Mulan will be available for $29.99, exclusively on Disney+ in the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and a few other countries, on September 4.