Just a few months ago, during the first weeks of Phase 2 of the Pandemic, members of the BORN (National Association of Theater Owners) spoke of Mulan by Niki Caro and Tenet by Christopher Nolan like great saviors of the cinema experience of the room. There was much more hope in the organized reopening of cinemas and in the anti-contagion measures adopted by American politics Trump governmentunfortunately all expectations are missed. This first forced Warner Bros. to overturn its distribution model, allowing an Augustine release of Tenet in Europe before the arrival of Nolan's sci-fi thriller in America in September (not yet confirmed), and finally convinced Disney to publish Mulan on Disney +, an event that has already been talked about for months and which the company has tried to shy away from for as long as possible.
The discourses on the safety of cinemas and on the help of exhibitors (especially Americans) are thus reduced – in fact – to zero, instead opening the doors to a different future, which takes into consideration the hall as an essential means of distribution, however, subverting its centrality, looking parallel over "the obstacle"and focusing on a model PVOD (Premium Video on Demand) and modern and digital streaming. And in such a context, Mulan himself could now be true game changer of this first film season of the Covid-19 era, laying the foundation for a profound revolution in the sector. Let's try to understand how and why.
The attractive charm of comfort
The digital world has radically changed the way of thinking of the great Hollywood majors, especially after the advent of the first giants of streaming and after the launch of their specific reference platforms. From a production point of view, a different way of understanding cinema and seriality, of launching new titles, of experimenting with new, expensive, even daring paths. From the distribution point of view, however, these services have proven themselves some excellent discount, some quality cash and carry and who instead, such as Disney +, a significant fallback for original titles that were otherwise bankrupt or of little success in the theaters. Kenneth Branagh's Artemis Fowl is the perfect example, but we can also cite the next The One and the Only Ivan by Thea Sharrock, which was originally scheduled for release on the big screen (now streamed for September).
Films with certainly significant budgets, but not blockbusters like Niki Caro's Mulan, cost over $ 200 million and spearhead the Disney summer season. It was unthinkable, initially, to distribute it via streaming: such an output would have covered just half of the costs and – in our opinion – drastically favored the world of piracy. As with Tenet, the second problem does not seem to particularly touch the upper floors of the Hollywood majors, and it is above all on the first that the Mickey Mouse House has instead struggled in recent weeks, that is, on critical issues related to economic returns and the real earnings accrued since Mulan's release on Disney +. All things considered, in the end they made a rather interesting decision.
Achieving well 60.5 million subscribers 9 months after the official launch Disney + has in fact increased the value of Mulan's success in streaming, definitively convincing the company to launch the highly anticipated live-action adaptation on the prestigious platform. Special features already targeted by countless controversies is that Mulan will not be included in the subscription fee, given that the film will be released on September 4th in "premiere access ", respecting more the canons of PVOD than subscribe streaming and at the seemingly high cost of $ 29.99.
In this regard, the initial communication was not the clearest, but some clarification came later from Bob Chapek, Disney CEO, who revealed: "In the United States, Canada, New Zealand and an agreed number of nations, Mulan will arrive with a premiere access to Disney + on September 4 at a price of $ 29.99 (U.S.)", then adding that"in countries where Disney + is not yet present, Mulan will be regularly released in theaters on a date to be determined ". Among those "agreed nations"it is not clear whether Italy will return or not, especially because our cinemas will all or almost reopen by September, we think of the large multiplex chains like UCI Cinemas or The Space.
The problem in our small way does not arise, but Chapek's reflection and explanation points to "new distribution horizons" not necessarily substitutes but also only parallels to the cinema ones, which translates into the desire to understand how to reach even the occasional audience that is not going to the cinema, especially in these times; in short, focus on the attractive charm of comfort, on the potential of the laziness of the casual viewers and not only.
More simply, the fact that we (or in other European countries) can regularly go out in the theater should not exclude a priori the possibility of seeing Mulan also in premiere access on Disney +, and this brings us to the conclusive reasoning about the price and the possible market revolution. Those $ 29.99 aren't in fact for a rental tout court, as reported The Disinsider, but to "unlock" the film, practically to buy it. It means that once the money has been paid, Mulan will remain available for viewing over 48 regular hours of a PVOD rental, always and at will, obviously only on the streaming platform and as long as you don't cancel your Disney + membership. In essence, Disney has combined the price of viewing on the big screen and the purchase of the blu-ray film in a single innovative solution, giving the interested public the opportunity to enter with virtually unlimited and immediate possession of the title. And this while looking at the individual and the family at the same time, without however renouncing the room but approaching it, accompanying it in this difficult pandemic situation and thinking of a new way of understanding distribution.
Chapek spoke of this choice as "a one-off model", something from which"you can learn a lot" in terms of offer, strategy, communication and innovation. If it is then Disney that sets this new one-off standard, it is likely that other companies in the sector will follow, observing Mulan's short exit carefully to understand if and how to move in the same direction in the future.