The Walt Disney Company will premiere its big-budget live-action version of Mulan on Disney Plus starting on Sept. 4, allowing the streaming service’s subscribers—60.5 million of them globally, as of the end of Q2—to pay $29.99 to rent the title.
“We find it very interesting to take a premiere offering to consumers at that $29.99 price and learn from it,” said Disney CEO Bob Chapek, addressing media investment analysts during Tuesday’s Q2 earnings call. Chapek labeled the so-called “premiere access” event a one-time affair.
The decision to bypass the theatrical window, which is largely disabled by a leaderless pandemic crisis with no end in site, and go straight to streaming is a bold one.
AT&T’s WarnerMedia unit, home of Disney’s studio rival, Warner Bros. Pictures, just demurred on the opportunity to premiere another $200 million-plus budget theatrical tentpole straight to HBO Max. AT&T CEO John Stankey said HBO Max might get straight-to-SVOD access for lower budgeted theatrical movies down the road.
Also last week, Comcast’s NBCUniversal division and its Universal Pictures arm announced a revenue sharing arrangement with powerful exhibition chain AMC Theatres in which films will premiere in the transactional streaming VOD window for a $20-a-pop, 48-hour rental. Getting the blessing of the No. 1 theater chain in North America reduces risks for NBCU, which is loathe to emerge from the pandemic with its exhibition partnerships in tatters.
As for Disney, it announced no theatrical chain tie-in. Chapek said the film event would provide a “fairly large stimulus” for Disney Plus, which added 6 million subscribers globally since the last time Disney rendered an earnings report in May.
Between Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus, Chapek added, Disney has more than 100 million subscribers.
Chapek called Disney’s direct-to-consumer streaming business “a top priority and key to the future of the company.”
As for the original animated Mulan, it was a global box office hit for Disney back in the company’s hand-drawn, pre-Pixar-acquisition era, grossing more than 304 million 1998 dollars.
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