Niki Caro’s “Mulan” has found a new home, sort of. After being pushed off its originally planned March 27 release date in mid-March due to burgeoning fears about the global pandemic, Disney eventually opted to lock the live-action “Mulan” in for a July 24 release date, later pushing even further back to an August 21 date. But as theaters continue to struggle in some of the country’s biggest markets, a traditional summer release date has proven to be impossible.
As announced on today’s Disney third quarter earnings call, the film will now head to streaming service Disney+ on September 4, but will also be available in theaters (mostly international markets, including China) that are open by that time. During the call, CEO Bob Chapek said it was important for the company to find new ways to distribute their films during the pandemic and that in “in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and number of countries, we will be offering on Disney+, the epic ‘Mulan’ on premium access beginning September 4, the price point being $29.99 in the U.S.”
That mention of a price point indicates that the film will not simply be available to stream for subscribers, unlike other previously planned theatrical releases that found a streaming home on Disney+, such as the critically maligned “Artemis Fowl,” directed by Kenneth Branagh, and the much-hyped “Hamilton” Broadway performance recording. Viewers will need to subscribe to Disney+ and then pony up the additional “premium access” payment to view the film.
With a budget of at least $200 million, “Mulan” is the most expensive live-action film ever directed by a female filmmaker, and its appeal to movie-loving Chinese audiences seems like the best way to earn back much of that cash. Taking it off the table theatrically was just too much of a gamble, and the studio must now hope that the delayed release date will still pay off when the film is finally released in open markets.
The film felt the effects of the growing pandemic early, as its Hollywood premiere took place on March 9 with heightened health-specific protocols in place. Three days later, the film was postponed.
Based on the Chinese folklore legend “The Ballad of Mulan,” the film stars Liu Yifei as the Chinese maiden who disguised herself as a male warrior to save her father. Unlike the beloved animated Disney tale, the film is not a musical and is built around a number of large-scale action setpieces. It also stars Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Gong Li, and Jet Li in supporting roles.
A number of other Disney properties have had to shift release dates in the wake of the pandemic, including “Black Widow” and a variety of other Marvel Cinematic Universe properties. Pixar’s “Soul,” which long staked out its own summer date, is now set for a November 20 date.