Aug 4, 2020 - Economy

"Mulan" will head to Disney+, home to more than 60 million subscribers

An outdoor ad for Disney's "Mulan" in Hollywood, California. Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images

Disney announced Tuesday that its most highly-anticipated blockbuster of the year, the live-action remake of "Mulan," is heading to Disney+ on Sept. 4 for consumers to purchase for a premium access fee of $29.99. The movie's theatrical debut had previously been delayed four times.

Why it matters: It's a huge blow to movie exhibitors across the country that were relying on the Disney hit to come exclusively to theaters for at least a few months before being made available to consumers at home via streaming.

  • It also indicates that Disney doesn't see movie theaters opening at full capacity in the U.S. and globally in the near future.

Details: Disney said it will make the movie available in theaters in some markets where Disney+ is not available.

  • It will be available in the U.S. for $29.99, and the price will fluctuate slightly in other markets. Consumers must be subscribed to Disney+ in order to watch "Mulan."
  • Disney said its family-friendly subscription service, Disney+, now has 60.5 million subscribers globally, after debuting just nine months ago.
  • Disney now has more than 100 million subscribers to its three streaming services combined, which include Disney+ (60.5 million subscribers), Hulu (35.5 million subscribers) and ESPN+ (8.5 million subscribers).

Be smart: This is Disney's first time experimenting with offering a movie via a premium access price on its streaming service. If it's successful, Disney executives say this could create a new revenue stream in the form of ticketed videos on-demand (TVOD) — similar to Fandango or Moviefone.

  • Disney cautioned that this is a one-off and that it doesn't plan to do this to all of its movies. The company said that it wants to use Mulan as an experiment.
  • On Disney's earnings call, CEO Bob Chapek said the company is hoping to learn more about how many subscribers this type of model will help the streamer accrue, as well as how many transactions a pay-per-view model can yield through an offering within a subscription streaming service.

Be smart: Analysts were expecting Disney to rake in $1 billion off of "Mulan's" global theatrical debut, prior to the pandemic.

  • It's unlikely Disney will hit that number by pushing the movie to premium on-demand streaming, but the company likely sees the potential for "Mulan" to help bring in Disney+ subscribers as a worthwhile tradeoff.

Between the lines: Disney's move into premium on-demand streaming follows efforts by rival movie studio Universal, which is owned by Comcast, to also make more money from ticketed on-demand video.

  • As Axios has previously reported, Universal was the first studio to skip the theatrical window altogether during the pandemic, when it made "Trolls World Tour" and other titles available on-demand for 48-hour rental for $19.99 at the same time as the film debuted in theaters in April.
  • The movie's success — netting $100 million in three weeks from North American on-demand sales — inspired other movie studios to follow the model with other films, aggravating the theater industry.
  • Last week, Universal and AMC, the largest theater chain in the U.S., struck an unprecedented multi-year deal to allow Universal films to appear on premium video on-demand services after being made available in theaters for 17 days — a significant departure from the traditional 90-day theatrical window. AMC will reportedly take a cut of the streaming revenue.

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a trend of movie studios pushing more movies to be made available for a premium price via a ticketed on-demand deal.

  • This could be a huge problem for exhibitors if they don't strike smart deals with studios to take a revenue cut from those releases.
  • The theater industry has faced enormous financial struggles throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Data: PwC and Digital TV Research; Chart: Axios Visuals
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