When it was announced that the live-action remake of “Mulan” would stream on Disney+ for $29.99, there were howls of protest from two distinctly different groups — consumers and movie theater operators.
Consumers complained because of the cost. Imagine — being asked to pay extra on top of the $6.99 a month (or $69.99 a year) that a Disney+ subscription costs!
Theater operators objected because they’re getting bypassed. But Disney, through no fault of its own, doesn’t exactly have a lot of alternatives during the ongoing pandemic.
No, $29.99 is not cheap. I’d balk at paying that much for a movie ticket.
But we’re not being asked to pay that for one ticket. If a couple takes their two kids to a theater, tickets alone would cost more than that. If they’ve got three or four kids — or more — tickets will cost a lot more than that. And that’s before you head to the snack bar.
In some Utah households, “Mulan” is going to be a crazy bargain. Let’s see … $29.99 divided by mom, dad and eight kids … that’s $3 a ticket!
(Just don’t invite the neighbors over to spread the cost out among more viewers. There’s potential in that to spread the coronavirus as well — a definite drawback to the streaming plan.)
Nobody is saying that streaming “Mulan” on Disney+ is ideal. It’s not. I’d argue that there’s a lot more great content on television than in movie theaters — even when theaters are operating at full capacity — but big blockbusters should be seen on big screens. And, as Salt Lake Tribune movie critic Sean P. Means points out in his review, “Mulan” is “epic in scale, with big battle scenes and dynamic set pieces that would have been glorious on a big screen.”
But this is the world in which we live. “Mulan” — which cost Disney $200 million to produce and another $100 million to market — was supposed to be released in theaters in late March, but then COVID-19 hit and theaters shut down. The release date got pushed back, and then pushed back again and again.
Should Disney release it in theaters at a time when many are still closed and 1,000 Americans are dying every day of the coronavirus? Should it delay the release indefinitely? At this point, even if a vaccine is developed and we can start going to movies again in a few months, Disney would have a tough time getting “Mulan” in theaters because of all the other films scheduled to be released. Should it delay the film by a year or two, and then spend another $100 million to market it?
Thus, the decision to stream it on Disney+.
If there’s a ray of hope for movie theaters, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that streaming “Mulan” is a “one-off” — that the studio does not plan to make bypassing theaters its standard operating procedure.
Of course, he also said that Disney will keep a close eye on how this goes — on how many Disney+ subscribers pay the extra $29.99 to stream “Mulan.” So … who knows what the future holds?
But then, that’s true of a lot of things in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.