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Disney’s $ 30 Mulan plan will be a litmus test for the entire film industry

After several delays in the theatrical release of the live-action film “Mulan” sparked a widespread debate over whether Disney would include the film directly on the Disney + service, we finally have an answer: yes.

In the company’s earnings forecast for the third quarter on Tuesday, Disney announced that “Mulan” would forego a dazzling theatrical release entirely and hit Disney + on September 4th for a fee of $ 29.99 – on top of the monthly subscription fee of $ 6 $ 99 for Disney +. Existing Disney + subscribers will have to pay $ 29.99 to see Mulan. However, it is a digital purchase, not a rental. The film will be live in their Disney + library for re-viewing.

The high $ 30 fee initially raised his eyebrows, but Universal had tremendous success in April when it released Trolls World Tour as a $ 20 digital rental that raised more rental fees in three weeks than that first “Trolls” film that was made in five cinemas months. Viewers willingly paid $ 20 for a one-time rental. “Mulan” is $ 10 more, but it’s a buy. And Disney will continue to use “Mulan” in some cinemas in markets where Disney + has not yet been launched (think China).

Disney CEO Bob Chapek cautioned on the earnings call, “We’re looking at ‘Mulan’ as one of a kind rather than saying there’s a new business window model we’re looking at.”

This particular comment is a direct appeal to cinema operators like AMC, who were angry about what Universal did with “Trolls World Tour”. (AMC threatened to stop showing universal films in the future.)

But the “Mulan” plan is only “one time” until it is no more. If it works, Disney could do it again – maybe almost immediately, with the Marvel film “Black Widow,” also postponed until theatrical release in November and could end up as Disney + distributors. Disney dominated the box office in 2019 thanks to Marvel films, including “Avengers: Endgame”, which “Avatar” overtook as the highest-selling box office film of all time. “Black Widow” tells the story of the origin of Scarlett Johansson’s character Natasha Romanoff, a member of the Avengers.

And Julia Alexander from the tech site The Verge quotes a Disney + source: “We have invested enough work so that it is not unique.”

A hand disinfection station was set up for the European premiere of “Mulan” in London on March 12, 2020. The premiere was canceled due to corona virus. REUTERS / Henry Nicholls

Disney’s “Mulan” train says a lot about its streaming strategies.

To begin with, it openly confirms what Chairman Bob Iger said last year before Disney + started: the direct-to-consumer business (ie, streaming) is now the company’s “number one priority”. Disney + now has up to 60.5 million paying subscribers, and Disney has a total of 100 million subscribers in Disney +, ESPN + and Hulu. On Tuesday it announced that it would launch another streaming service outside the United States under the star banner it acquired as part of the Fox deal.

The “Mulan” plan also shows that Disney is ready to do what Warner Brothers (or at least director Christopher Nolan) has nothing to do with “Tenet”, which is still slated for release on September 3, before it is digitized. And even if Warner Bros. doesn’t make it with “Tenet” when Disney gets high fees from “Mulan”, other studios will in future be thinking about the direct digital route, even after the pandemic.

Disney’s streaming success is the only reason why the stock rose 8.8% on Wednesday, despite the company losing $ 4.7 billion in the third quarter (thanks to a non-GAAP gain of 8 cents per share) deferred payments to sports leagues). Revenue in the theme park department decreased by a devastating 85% compared to the third quarter of 2019 due to the pandemic, many of its parks remain closed, cruise lines remain closed, and filming for many new projects has been delayed.

Disney’s streaming earnings bear the stock. If the pandemic lasts for many months, then look for other Disney releases that follow the “Mulan” recipe.

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