Disney + Minus Mulan

Reading the title of this blog might sound confusing, especially if you read it aloud. Technically it is what is called a double negative, but let me see if I can make sense of it for you and why it has us at “Oh Brother” a bit concerned and maybe even a bit ticked off?

Last blog I wrote about the state of movie going and how the current COVID-19 virus is impacting going to the movies and outright killing some movie houses across the United States. Back in March when the country hit a frightening number of those falling ill, currently over 6 million in the United States with over 183,000 fatalities, businesses from coast to coast shut down to try and get a handle on the pandemic.

For the last few months, businesses have been encouraged to reopen despite numbers still climbing in over half of the country.  Some businesses have reopened successfully, while others are still struggling to bring back patrons not the least of which is the movie industry.  In fact, if you look at the top ten movies at the box office last week you might be confused about what year this is? Movies like Star Wars and Back to the Future are showing up in the top ten nearly 30 years after their original release.

Why? Because movie studios are either withholding movies likely to earn millions at the box office or others that shutdown production as a result of the pandemic.  There is currently a back log of movies just waiting for the box office to return so studios can recoup the losses they have experienced since the outbreak.  Blockbusters such as Bond, Wonder Woman, Black Widow, and yes you guessed it, Mulan.

Mulan is the latest animated Disney movie to get the live action treatment.  Disney has seen recent success with such animated turned live action films as Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Lion King.  Most have done well at the box office, so why mess with a bad thing?

Many who signed up with Disney’s streaming service Disney+ have wondered if Disney would use the platform to release movies waiting in the wings to keep the storytelling going and before movie goers forget what the heck happened in the last Avengers flick?  Seems like a perfect way to deliver fresh content to consumers and take a bite out of the once Netflix dominated platform.  After all, isn’t this what Disney promised when they entered the streaming game? Fresh new programing along with classic Disney animated films, Marvel superhero movies, and TV shows like the Simpsons from the deal with Fox.

Netflix has seen a lot of success with original content released exclusively on their platform.  Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman with huge stars Robert Dinero, Al Pacino, and retired two-time Oscar winner Joe Pesci would certainly have filled theaters and earned millions during a box office run.  But it seems major studios are still waiting on a return on investment that normally would’ve been a sure thing after a few weeks in theaters.

But many theaters are still hurting, and they are desperate for big movies from major studios.  The problem is people are still reticent about sitting indoors with strangers separated by maybe nothing more than a cotton mask.  In a recent Oh Brother poll, over 80% of people responding said they were not comfortable going back to the movies. Though our sample size was relatively small, it does give us a sense of what’s going on with at box office.

Mulan, a movie ready to hit the box office when businesses suddenly shut down, has been sitting on shelves just waiting for a release.  Disney spent a lot of money on this once animated feature shooting much of the film in the States.  So, why not release Mulan on Disney+?  Well fans may finally get their wish!

Now hold on just a minute!  Going back to the title of this blog Disney+ Minus Mulan; what does that mean?  The answer lays in the fact Disney is charging $29.95 to see Mulan!  What’s more, you have to have a Disney+ subscription only to then have to fork over another $30 bucks to see Mulan (until it likely shows up eventually for free on the format). Surely this is an experiment by Disney to see if they can recoup losses they’re likely to take by releasing Mulan in this fashion as opposed to their usual half a billion-dollar haul from a few weeks in theaters!  Netflix, in its rise to streaming dominance, have yet to do this despite releasing major movies that certainly would have done big money at the box office.

So, what does this mean for the future of Disney+?  Are there now going to be levels of Disney+?  Disney+ Gold, Disney+ Silver etc.? Unquestionably, Disney has taken major losses from the shutdown of all 7 theme parks around the world.  Even as I write this, Disneyland in Anaheim, CA has yet to get the ok to reopen.  Is Disney changing the rules after the game has started? Sounds that way to us. Is this what we were promised when we signed up for Disney+?  If we knew we were going to be charged extra for a big release how many people would have passed?  Other studios have toyed with the “Theater at Home” concept, but even the best films have only charged $19.99. Will Disney start to use their home video strategy of “putting movies in the vault” only to release them 5 years later for another 24.99?  Will they start pulling those Avengers movies unless you have a Disney+ Gold subscription?  This could quickly lead to something we didn’t sign up for.  Will Mandalorian season 2 cost $5 an episode along with a Disney+ subscription?  I’m not rooting for Mulan to fail, but if this approach succeeds Disney will likely start turning to some of my previously mentioned ideas and we all lose. We will likely forego $29.95 for “premier access” to see Mulan.  What about you?  We want to know your thoughts on the subject. Is this Disney trying to recoup box office losses at our expense? Is it good old-fashioned capitalism? Or flat out greed?

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