Disney‘s unorthodox release of Mulan, like most things during the pandemic, answers one big question while raising a bunch of others. After delaying the big-screen rollout of Mulan three since it was originally supposed to hit theaters in March, Disney finally settled on an unconventional plan: Disney will sell access to the big-budget, live-action remake starting on , its subscription streaming service that already costs $7 a month. also will debut in theaters the same day in countries that don’t (and won’t) have and where cinemas are actually open.
It’s an unprecedented move. Unfathomable just six months ago, selling Mulan online the same day it hits theaters is a major defection from the rigid rules that usually keep new movies in cinemas exclusively for 75 days or more. Until the pandemic, Disney had been a loyal friend to those so-called theatrical windows, racking up more box-office blockbusters in the last five years than any other studio.
But it’s also a twist to how Disney has pitched its streaming service Disney Plus to audiences since it launched in November. Disney Plus was marketed as a rival to Netflix, an all-you-can-eat buffet to stream almost everything Disney produces for one monthly subscription fee. But Mulan will involve an additional transaction that members must pay for — and a pricey one at that. It’ll be a new proposition for Disney Plus’ 60 million subscribers.
A few of the finer points about Disney’s Mulan release have started to come into focus. But defying convention means we still don’t know much about how the movie’s release will go down.
How much does Mulan cost?
Mulan won’t be “free” with your Disney Plus membership. On Disney Plus, Mulan will be offered as what’s known as premium video-on-demand, which is when a movie is made available online at a higher-than-typical price. Disney itself is calling this model “premium access.” Purchasers will be able to watch Mulan for as long as they remain active Disney Plus subscribers. In other words, this isn’t a rental; it’s more like a purchase that is locked to a single service.
Disney has set the official price only for the US so far: Mulan will be available on Disney Plus exclusively for $30 in addition to the service’s standard membership price, which is $7 a month or $70 a year.
Disney hasn’t announced pricing for other countries yet. It said international pricing will vary, but it’s expected to be roughly similar to $30 in local currency.
Regardless of where you are, the additional price of Mulan will stack on top of Disney Plus’ standard membership cost.
Disney Plus’ international prices are:
- In Canada, Disney Plus is priced at C$9 a month, or C$90 per year.
- In countries that are part of the euro zone, it’s 7 euros, or 70 euros a year.
- In the UK, it’s £6 a month, or £60 a year.
- In Australia, it’s priced at AU$9 a month, or AU$90 per year
- In New Zealand, subscribers pay NZ$10 per month, or NZ$100 per year.
- In India, Disney Plus Hotstar is priced at 299 Indian rupees a month, or 999 rupees a year.
- In Japan, Disney Plus is 700 yen a month through an exclusive partnership with Japanese telecom company NTT Docomo.
- In Norway, Disney Plus will cost 69 Norwegian kroner monthly or 689 kroner annually.
- In Sweden, it’ll be 69 Swedish kronor a month or 689 kronor a year.
- In Denmark, it’ll be 59 Danish kroner a month, or 589 kroner a year.
For countries where Mulan will be released in theaters, pricing will vary based on whatever local cinemas charge, as usual.
When is Mulan’s release date?
Mulan will be available on Disney Plus and in theaters on Sept. 4.
How long will I be able to watch Mulan once I pay for it online?
Once you unlock access to Mulan on Disney Plus, you keep your access to it for as long as you’re an active Disney Plus subscriber. If you cancel Disney Plus, you obviously won’t be able to watch Mulan anymore — but if you reactivate the same account, your Mulan access will be restored.
Will Mulan become available to stream “free” as part of a standard Disney Plus subscription at some point? When?
Mulan is expected to become part of a standard Disney Plus subscription, but Disney hasn’t specified the timing of that change. Disney has said that the purchase of Mulan buys access to the movie “before it’s available to all Disney Plus subscribers,” indicating the movie will indeed become part of the standard Disney Plus library at some point.
But it’s unclear how long it will take before Mulan is included “free” with a regular subscription.
In pre-pandemic times, Disney typically would add its theatrically released movies to Disney Plus roughly six to nine months after their wide releases on the big screen. But now that Mulan’s big-screen release is the same day as its arrival on Disney Plus, we don’t know if the service will remove the $30 fee along that same timeline. In addition, Disney Plus has been adding some of its theatrically released movies to Disney Plus earlier during the pandemic — both Frozen 2 andarrived on Disney Plus three months earlier than originally scheduled.
And of course, we have little precedent to guide us here. This so-called day-and-date release model — when a movie comes to theaters and home viewing simultaneously — is rare, especially for a movie as big as Mulan. And Disney has never done it before. When Universal released its Trolls World Tour sequel day-and-date in April, putting it both in theaters and as a high-price rental, the company indicated it would stick with the standard stages of a movie release now that the premiere has passed. But it’s anyone’s guess if Disney will behave in a similar way.
What countries will get Mulan online? Where will it be released in theaters?
Disney confirmed Mulan will be released on Disney Plus in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, mentioning those countries by name. Beyond that, things get fuzzy.
In Europe, Disney said Mulan will be available on Disney Plus in “a number of Western European countries.” It didn’t specify which ones. Disney Plus currently operates in 10 Western European countries, with more on the way.
Adding another wrinkle, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Mulan would be released in theaters “in certain markets where currently we have no announced launch plans for Disney Plus and where theaters are open.”
That raises uncertainty about the Mulan’s release in countries where Disney Plus is confirmed to be launching after Mulan’s debut.
Disney Plus is set to launch in eight more European countries on Sept. 15, nearly two weeks after Mulan’s premiere: Portugal, Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Will they be excluded from Mulan’s theatrical release and its online release both?
And Disney Plus is supposed to launch somehow in Latin America in November, but the company hasn’t specified dates or countries yet. Does Latin America count as a place with an announced launch plan, and therefore excluded from theatrical release? We don’t know yet.
And we don’t know if Mulan’s release on Disney Plus is mutually exclusive with a theatrical release in a single country that could support both. New Zealand, for example, is confirmed to be getting Mulan on Disney Plus — but many New Zealand cinemas are open, a benefit of the country keeping the coronavirus largely under control. Will Kiwi audiences have the choice of seeing Mulan both online and in theaters, or will the movie skip cinemas there because it’s confirmed for Disney Plus?
Will Disney release other movies this way? What about Marvel’s Black Widow?
This unconventional release of Mulan is basically an experiment. Disney’s CEO Chapek said that Mulan’s release strategy doesn’t necessarily set a new standard for how other Disney films will reach audiences during (or after) the pandemic. You shouldn’t count on other big Disney movies, such as Marvel’s Black Widow, following the same path of Mulan.
However, Chapek left the door open to possibly use this release strategy again if it turns out to be a success.
“Mulan is a one-off,” Chapek said last week. “That said, we find it very interesting to be able to … learn from it and see what happens, not only in terms of the uptake of the number of subscribers that we get on the platform but the actual number of transactions on the Disney Plus platform that we get.”
Chapek wouldn’t go into detail, but he said that the company’s internal research indicated that releasing Mulan this way would both drum up revenues from the $30 transactions and also act as “a fairly large stimulus to sign up for Disney Plus.”
Will I be able to watch Mulan online through any stores other than Disney Plus?
Initially, Mulan is supposed to be an online exclusive for Disney Plus. What happens after that is still unclear.
After a traditional theatrical release, a movie typically widens to a home-viewing window, which includes various stages of DVD, Blu-ray and online rental and purchase. Those online rentals and purchases can be through a wide range of stores, but Amazon Video or Apple’s TV app are two big ones. We don’t know yet, though, if Disney will keep Mulan as a Disney Plus exclusive or preserve some of those other, standard ways of releasing it for home viewing.
Will people who purchase Mulan on Disney Plus be able to download it to watch offline?
Yes. Once you pay for Mulan, it should be present in your Disney Plus library similar to any other title — so you should be able to download it, search for it by name, add it to a watchlist, etc.
Disney Plus has a generous download policy. Pretty much everything on the service is available to download for offline viewing. The service limits the number of mobile or tablet devices that its subscribers can download on, allowing no more than 10 devices, but that’s the only constraint.
What video and audio formats will Mulan support?
Mulan will be available in ultra-high-definiton and high-dynamic-range imaging, and it will support Dolby Audio.
Will Mulan have closed-captioning for people who are hard of hearing? Will it have descriptive-audio tracks for people who have visual impairments?
Very likely. Because Mulan is expected to have the same product features as any other Disney Plus title, that would include accessibility features like closed captions and descriptive audio.
Disney Plus has a strong track record for accessibility. The service supports closed-captioning and descriptive audio, and Disney Plus apps have navigation assistance to help subscribers with disabilities. In July, the American Council of the Blind gave Disney Plus an achievement award for its descriptive audio.
Since new movies need to have closed captions and descriptive audio prepared so theaters can comply with accessibility law, Disney presumably already has those accessibility features on hand for Mulan.
Will I be able to pay for Mulan through my iPhone app? My Android app? Other apps for Disney Plus?
Disney has said that this paid access to Mulan will be available on disneyplus.com and “select platforms.” Just how “select” those platforms will be is unclear.
Note that this uncertainty is around where you’ll be able to pay for Mulan. It’s expected that you’ll be able to watch Mulan on Disney Plus anywhere, regardless of app or platform, once the transaction is complete.
The “select platforms” language suggests Disney hasn’t committed yet to making Mulan purchases available across all the platforms that have Disney Plus as an app or channel. It’s possible that Disney could limit the purchasing options for Mulan to exclude in-app purchase on some platforms such Apple’s iOS mobile system for iPhone, Google’s Android system for mobile devices, Roku, Amazon Fire TV or others. Disney loses a meaningful cut of many in-app purchases because of the fees Disney must pay back to the platform, and negotiations between streaming services and streaming-device makers on matters like these. But Disney gets to keep essentially all the money it makes off purchases through disneyplus.com.
How will the Disney Plus user interface accommodate a video-on-demand purchase?
Other video services have transactional movie rentals and purchases live side by side with subscription libraries. Amazon and Apple both do this, letting titles available to Prime Video members and Apple TV Plus members exist alongside stuff you can rent and buy. But those platforms originated as transactional stores and then added their subscription libraries later.
Disney Plus’ short life has always been as a wide-open, all-access library, and so its user interface doesn’t currently have any storelike features. Disney Plus mobile apps, for example, don’t currently have a dedicated tab or hub to find purchases. And we don’t know what the purchase “flow” — the steps you go through to pay for something –will be like on Disney Plus.
It’s mostly likely that once you make your way through the transaction for Mulan successfully, then the title will simply be unlocked as part of your wider Disney Plus catalog, and you can find it by searching, adding it to your watchlist or browsing in the Disney section of the app. But we don’t know for sure yet.
Will Disney Plus subscribers be charged automatically with their payment method on file or need to enter payment info?
Unlocking Mulan on Disney Plus will requires that extra $30 payment. For monthly subscribers, presumably the service will automatically charge whatever method of payment you already have on file for your monthly membership fee.
But some of these payment methods, like in-app purchases, come with big fees that Disney must pay. It’s possible that Disney limits the platforms that allow you to pay for Mulan, which could require you to enter new payment info.
Even if Disney Plus opts to simply charge your method of payment on file, that may trigger snafus for people who are annual — or longer — subscribers. The long lag time in between an annual member’s first and only payment to Disney Plus raises the possibility of expired credit cards or anything else that could make an automatic payment go awry.
The very first people who signed up for Disney Plus paid for a discounted three-year subscription, what was known as a Founder’s Circle deal. But these subscribers won’t have touched their Disney Plus payment details in more than a year by the time Mulan arrives. That could mean that Disney Plus’ most loyal subscribers are the ones most likely to run into payment problems.
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