Disney's Mulan to be free with regular Disney Plus subscription Dec. 4
The 2020 live-action movie will be released on Disney Plus for an extra $30 fee Friday on top of Disney Plus' regular price, before it becomes free to all members three months later.
Joan E. SolsmanFormer Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Disney will widen the availability of its live-action film Mulan to anyone with a standard Disney Plus membership on Dec. 4, three months after the remake will premiere on the streaming service for an extra $30 on Friday.
There was already speculation that Mulan might become more widely available through Disney Plus on Dec. 4. Temporarily, over the weekend, Mulan's Disney Plus preview page included language indicating that Dec. 4 would be when all Disney Plus subscribers get access to the film, but it was later removed. Disney didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the Dec. 4 timing, but that language is now starting to return.
Mulan will be available at 12:01 a.m. PT Friday, the standard time that Disney Plus makes new titles available on their release dates, for people who want to purchase the $30 early access, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The company will also release Mulan theatrically on Friday in markets where cinemas are open and where Disney Plus isn't operating yet.
Mulan, which Disney originally slated for theaters in March and which has seen its release date pushed back multiple times because of the coronavirus, is the latest blockbuster-style film being released as what's known as premium video on demand.
The decision marks an unprecedented approach to releasing a big-budget movie that had been destined to be a blockbuster back when theaters were open worldwide. The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered cinemas around the globe and forced studios across the board to delay big-budget films for months and years, with no certainty in sight for when theaters can reopen at large or when audiences will feel comfortable sitting in windowless, enclosed rooms for hours.
It's also a major defection from the rigid rules that usually keep new movies only in theaters for 75 days or more, as well as a surprising change to how Disney Plus has been pitched to audiences since it launched in November. Disney Plus is Disney's online hub for streaming almost everything the company produces, but it was marketed as an all-you-can-eat buffet like Netflix, where your subscription unlocks everything on the platform to watch. Mulan will bring an a la carte transaction to Disney Plus that its 60 million subscribers haven't yet encountered.
Disney's changes underscore how disruptive the pandemic has been to Hollywood studios' meticulously planned release cycles. With theaters closed and coronavirus preventive measures keeping people stuck at home, studios have mostly decided to keep pushing back the theatrical release dates for mega-budget pictures. But with their tentpole movies in a holding pattern, studios could be setting themselves up to all release a glut of movies on top of each other, crimping ticket sales.
Already, smaller-budget films began to go straight to online rentals or streaming services, such as Disney's decision to release its Hamilton film and its young-adult sci-fi movie Artemis Fowl on Disney Plus rather than in theaters. And Universal has released new movies like DreamWorks Animation's Trolls World Tour and others as special online rentals.
But Universal's Trolls World Tour online release enraged cinemas, with US chain AMC even vowing it would ban Universal movies from its screens, including its blockbuster Fast & Furious franchise. Cinemas have doggedly clung to rules that keep new movies only in theaters for months, even as audiences have grown more accustomed to watching video when they want, where they want. Then last month Universal struck a deal with AMC to patch things up, promising to give theaters three weekends of exclusivity for new movies going forward in exchange for lifting the ban on its movies, a signal that cinemas are willing to compromise.
Disney, however, has been one of the Hollywood studios most dedicated to theatrical release. It's decision to put out Mulan online reinforces the prospect that these alternative release strategies devised in the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic may have lasting effects even after cinemas start reopening at large.
Disney Plus' standard subscriptions costs $7 a month, or $70 a year, in the US. 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 is 7 euros a month, or 70 euros a year. In the UK, it is £6 a month, or £60 a year. In Australia, it's priced at AU$9 a month, or AU$90 per year, while 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.
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