Mulan was expected to be one of Disney’s biggest blockbusters of 2020. The company’s live-action remakes are reliable cash cows; 2019’s The Lion King grossed $1.6 billion in theaters. So it has been assumed by most observers that Disney would never release the film directly to streaming on Disney+, the way that some studios pushed products to premium VOD services during this time of the pandemic.

In this case, the observers were wrong, as Disney announced today that the film would premiere on Disney+ on September 4 the same day it opens in theaters — in markets where theaters are open for business. In a first for Disney+, though, Mulan will not be available to subscribers as part of the service’s regular programming; instead it will cost an additional $29.99 to watch the film. (According to reports, once customers pay to watch Mulan they will have “access to the film for as long as they remain subscribers to the service.”) One can assume that at some later date, the film will be made available as part of the Disney+ monthly subscription fee, but Disney offered no timeline for that.) The film, directed by Niki Caro, cost a reported $200 million; it was originally scheduled to open in theaters back in March.

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This is enormous news on a number of levels. One, because it suggests Disney has very little confidence that the vast majority of movie theaters will be open any time soon. Two, because if this release plan is successful, it could be duplicated for other upcoming Disney releases, like Marvel’s Black Widow or Pixar’s Soul. Both of those movies have already been delayed by the coronavirus.

It also means that both Mulan and Tenet will both be available in some form or fashion that first weekend in September. After the worst drought for blockbusters in decades, two of the biggest of the year will open against one another. At least that’s the plan for now; these things have a habit of changing constantly these days.

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