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Mulan's Streaming Release Due to Moviegoers' Concerns About Theaters


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Disney's CFO says the decision to release Mulan on Disney+ rather than in theaters was ultimately down to audiences not wanting to go to the cinema. The media giant's latest live-action remake of a beloved classic was taken off theater schedules in March due to the coronavirus pandemic that shut down cinema chains worldwide. And rather than being delayed, or released in theaters amid the pandemic, Disney decided instead to take the unprecedented decision to release its $200 million blockbuster on its streaming service instead, for the premium price of $29.99.

So far, the release seems to have been a success, with Disney reporting that it saw downloads of Disney+ climb by 68% over the weekend, driven mostly by demand for the movie. The release hasn't been without controversy, though, with Mulan receiving mixed reviews and facing a boycott due to its star, Liu YiFei, saying she supports China's efforts to suppress pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. However, those problems don't seem to have dented the movie's prospects too much, though critics have lamented the fact that it's great action scenes won't ever be seen on the big screen.

Now, according to Deadline, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy has told the Citi 2020 Global Technology Conference that ultimately the decision to release Mulan on Disney+ came about as a result of audiences being reluctant to return to theaters. McCarthy says that statistics showed that families with young kids would be unlikely to watch the film in theaters and that Mulan likely would have only drawn 40% of its intended audience as a best-case scenario. You can read her full comments below:
 
 

McCarthy denies that the decision was made to drive up subscriber numbers for Disney+, though she admits it was a "collateral benefit." How Disney will end up seeing the release is difficult to know. McCarthy is happy with the movie's performance so far, but the numbers from streaming are far below what they likely would have been had the film released in theaters during non-coronavirus-affected times. A $200 million blockbuster would be expected to clear anywhere between 25% and 50% of its production budget in its debut weekend alone.

However, the $33.5 million the movie made over the Labor Day weekend is impressive for a VOD release and may well convince Disney to release other movies on it's streaming service while coronavirus affects theaters. There are already reports that Pixar's Soul will end up skipping theaters and releasing straight to Disney+, while other blockbuster movies like Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984 suffer repeated delays. At this point, it seems like the statisticians made the right choice by releasing Mulan on Disney+.
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