Today, Disney+ the new big boy on the streaming block again has attempted to shift the balalnce of how we consume movies with the release of Mulan in a premium tier offering at £20.
When the pandemic hit earlier this year, one of the industries that was hardest hit was the movie business as it created a massive log jam of relases that were now put on hold due to cinemas having to close to combat the outbreak. So this put both cinemas and the studios at a crossroads. How were they going to deal with this and what would the future hold?
A few of the cinema chains had already become embroiled in a war of sorts with Universal over it’s decision to reduce the time between cinema release and home entertainment release had ended up with them refusing to show Universal’s movies. At the time it seemed a case of cutting their noses off to spite their face as it was becoming inievitable that it was going to happen.
For many years now it’s seemed like the studios saw the cinema chains as a necessary evil to distribute their products. This writer worked in cinemas back in the 90’s and you could tell even then that the big studios would love to not have to deal with cinema chains.
However with the slow rise of streaming thanks to the likes of Netflix for the most part branching out and creating their own studio and releasing them straight ot the platform. The pandemic then gave the studios their chance. Trolls World Tour was the first out of the gate and at the height of lockdown did huge sales across the various digital platforms.
Disney+ also had launched during this time again a huge boom for them captalising on people being locked away at home (Although it should be pointed out that the Disney+ launch date was already set long before the pandemic arrived). They also took it upon themselves to release Artemis Fowl (Review: https://screen-one.net/2020/09/03/artemis-fowl-review/) which looked ot be one of their big family blockbusters fir the summer on the platform. Apple TV+ then acquired the Tom Hanks World War II thriller Greyhound (https://screen-one.net/2020/09/03/greyhound-review/) and released that on their streaming platofrm following up the Apple produced The Banker starring Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson.
The big Christopher Nolan release Tenet was pulled from release schedules altogether with the director wanting day and date release worldwide to avoid the films ‘secrets’ being spoiled and the ever worrying piracy issue. This then led to Disneys two tent pole summer releases, the Live action remake of Mulan and Marvel’s Black Widow and what they would do with them. Black Widow is currently scheduled for a October cinema release now the movie houses are slowly reopening and Christopher Nolan back tracked on his orginal wish and has released Tenet in the UK.
But today, Disney+ has released Mulan for the premium price of £20 on top of your monthly or yearly subscription fee and unlike the other movie releases such as Trolls and Scoob which you paid around £15/6 for 48 hours, you get to keep the release as long as you have an active subscription. A good deal? Well, maybe if theres more than 2 of you in your household that want to watch it as it decreases the price of cinema admission, with the added bonus of not having to wait for the home release to watch it again.
So let’s break it down, and average family of four cost tog et into the cinema to watch a film on average around £45 (Based on two adults and two children) then if you add in food and drinks you can add anywhere around another £20, plus it relies on whether or not you are willing to venture out during current times, but still an average of £65 for watching once on the big screen or £20 watching multiple times in the comfort of your own home, cheaper snacks and depending on the size and quality of your home TV a similar experience, currently it looks like it’s an obvious choice.
The choice could be costly to the cinema chains. While we are not about to suggest this is the end of cinema going as we know it, it’s certainly going to create a new norm. If Mulan hits big then expect the majority of their future releases to end up on these platforms. The cost attributed to distributing a film at the cinema are huge and if it reduces the red lines then expect this to happen. Mid level budget movies or indie releases are prime for this move and yes this writer does believe it would be a shameto see this happen, becuase would say Parasite have been released this way had it been this time last year? Probably. But would it have got noticed like it did or would it have just passed many people by?
While the Tenet’s, Bond’s and major Marvel/DC releases are unlikely to be pulled from cinemas for the smaller screen, it will be only a matter of time and Black Widow is going to be the one to watch to see how Disney’s thinking goes.
So is Mulan a gamble or is it actually a litmus test for what is to come, only time will tell.