Chinese actress Liu Yifei plays the lead role in Disney's live-action blockbuster Mulan. CHINA DAILY
LOS ANGELES－Disney's long-awaited China-set live-action film Mulan will be released via streaming in the United States next month, the Hollywood entertainment giant said on Tuesday.
On a call with investors, Disney executives say that the upcoming epic fantasy war drama film directed by Niki Caro will premiere on Sept 4 on Disney+, the company's streaming service, for $29.99.
Mulan will also be available to Disney+ subscribers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and some European countries. The film will be released in theaters in markets without Disney+.
Disney chief executive officer Bob Chapek says the company was forced to "consider different approaches and look for new opportunities" amid the ongoing pandemic.
"We're looking at Mulan as a one-off as opposed to saying there's some new business windowing model that we're looking at," Chapek says.
Mulan has been delayed multiple times in response to the pandemic. Disney announced last month that it would postpone indefinitely the release of Mulan.
The film was first scheduled to hit US theaters on March 27 but was later rescheduled to July 24, before being delayed to Aug 21.
Based on the legend of an ancient Chinese heroine, the film is an adaptation of Disney's 1998 animated film of the same name. Mulan, according to folk legend, lived during a tumultuous era in Chinese history more than 1,400 years ago. She disguised herself as a man to serve in the army in place of her aged father and fight for her country.
The film, which cost $200 million to make, stars Liu Yifei in the title role, with Gong Li as a powerful and dangerous witch, Donnie Yen as an army commander and Jet Li as the emperor.
Disney on Tuesday reported significant quarterly loss in its fiscal third quarter due to the pandemic, noting that theatrical distribution in the quarter was negatively impacted by COVID-19.
"Despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, we've continued to build on the incredible success of Disney+ as we grow our global direct-to-consumer businesses," says Chapek in a statement, adding that the company now has an astounding 100 million paid subscriptions across its direct-to-consumer services, including Disney+,Hulu and ESPN.
Mulan and Christopher Nolan's Tenet underpin the hopes of both Hollywood and US cinema owners of salvaging the usually profitable summer season. Warner Bros announced last week that Tenet will hit the big screen in over 70 countries starting on Aug 26 ahead of US release in select cities on Sept 3.
Variety magazine notes Disney's move is "yet another stark indication of studios' dwindling faith that movie theaters will be able to safely reopen in the near future, especially at the scale necessary to support mega-budgeted tentpole filmmaking."
The magazine points out that the lack of a theatrical release for Mulan is a huge loss for exhibitors.
"The decision to now bypass cinemas and debut the family adventure on Disney+ is a major blow for theater owners who were counting on playing both that film and Warner Bros' Tenet upon reopening later this month," comments another entertainment industry magazine, the Hollywood Reporter.
"With a potential Disney+ windfall, will studio still need movie theaters?" asked the online news website, Deadline Hollywood, noting that many exhibitors were blindsided by Disney's decision.