Disney's unorthodox plan to release Mulan -- like most things during the coronavirus pandemic -- answered one big question but raised a lot of others. After delaying the big-screen rollout of Mulan three times since it was originally meant to hit theaters March 27, Disney finally chose an unconventional path for the film: Disney will sell access to the big-budget, live-action remake starting Sept. 4 for $30 on Disney Plus, its subscription streaming service that already costs $7 a month. Mulan also will debut in theaters the same day in countries where cinemas are actually open and those that don't (and won't) have Disney Plus.
It's an unprecedented move. Unfathomable just six months ago, selling Mulan online the same day it hits theaters is a major defection from the rigid rules that usually keep new movies in cinemas exclusively for 75 days or more. Until the pandemic, Disney had been loyal to those so-called theatrical windows, racking up more box-office blockbusters in the last five years than any other studio.
But it's also a twist to how Disney has pitched its streaming service Disney Plus since its launch in November. Disney Plus was marketed as a rival to Netflix, an all-you-can-eat buffet to stream almost everything Disney produces for one monthly subscription fee. But Mulan will involve an additional transaction that members must pay for -- and a pricey one at that. It'll be a new proposition for Disney Plus' 60 million subscribers.
The finer points about Disney's Mulan release have started to come into focus, but some big questions are still unanswered. Here's everything we know so far and still are waiting to find out.
Will Mulan ever stream "free" as part of a standard Disney Plus subscription? When?
Yes, Mulan will become part of a standard Disney Plus subscription, but we don't know when exactly.
Disney has said that the purchase of Mulan buys access to the movie "before it's available to all Disney Plus subscribers," indicating the movie will indeed become part of the standard Disney Plus library at some point. But it's unclear how long it will take before Mulan is included "free" with a regular subscription.
For now, Disney has said simply that Mulan should become available to regular subscribers after a standard amount of time that any big movie takes after its initial release before hitting streaming. In pre-pandemic times, Disney typically would add its theatrically released movies to Disney Plus roughly six to nine months after their wide releases on the big screen.
But now that Mulan's big-screen release is the same day as its arrival on Disney Plus, we don't know if the service will remove the $30 fee along that same timeline.
In addition, Disney Plus has been adding some of its theatrically released movies to Disney Plus earlier during the pandemic -- both Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrived on Disney Plus three months earlier than originally scheduled.
Read more: 30 best movies to watch on Disney Plus
And of course, we have little precedent to guide us here. This so-called day-and-date release model -- when a movie comes to theaters and home viewing simultaneously -- is rare, especially for a movie as big as Mulan. And Disney has never done it before. When Universal released its Trolls World Tour sequel day-and-date in April, putting it both in theaters and as a high-price rental, the company indicated it would stick with the standard stages of a movie release now that the premiere has passed. But it's anyone's guess if Disney will behave in a similar way.
When is Mulan's release date?
Mulan will be available on Disney Plus on Sept. 4. It's supposed to be released in theaters the same day in some countries where cinemas are open.
How much does Mulan cost?
Mulan won't be "free" with your Disney Plus membership. On Disney Plus, Mulan will be offered as what's known as premium video-on-demand, which is when a movie is made available online at a higher-than-typical price. Disney itself is calling this model "premium access." Purchasers will be able to watch Mulan for as long as they remain active Disney Plus subscribers. In other words, this isn't a rental; it's more like a purchase that is locked to a single service.
Regardless of where you are, the additional price of Mulan will stack on top of Disney Plus' standard membership cost.
In the US, Mulan will be available on Disney Plus exclusively for $30 in addition to the service's standard membership price, which is $7 a month or $70 a year. That doesn't include taxes, which will bump up the price of Mulan a little bit more.
- In Canada, Mulan is priced at C$35 and Disney Plus costs C$9 a month, or C$90 per year.
- In Australia, Mulan is priced at AU$35 and Disney Plus costs AU$9 a month, or AU$90 per year
- In New Zealand, Mulan is priced at NZ$40 and Disney Plus costs NZ$10 per month, or NZ$100 per year.
- In Japan, where Disney Plus is offered through Japanese telecom NTT Docomo, Mulan is priced at 2980 yen and Disney Plus costs 700 yen a month.
- In the UK, Mulan is priced at £20 and Disney Plus costs £6 a month, or £60 a year.
- In the euro zone, Mulan will be available in Ireland, Germany, Austria, Span, Italy, and the Netherlands. In those countries, Mulan is priced at 22 euros and Disney Plus costs 7 euros, or 70 euros a year.
- In Swizerland, Mulan is priced at 29 francs and Disney Plus costs 9.90 fracs, or 99 francs a year.
Taxes vary by country. In some countries, purchasers will need to pay taxes on the Mulan purchase in addition to its advertised price. But in other countries, like those in the euro zone, the price of Mulan already includes taxes.
For countries where Mulan will be released in theaters, pricing will vary based on whatever local cinemas charge, as usual.
How long will I be able to watch Mulan once I pay for it online?
Once you unlock access to Mulan on Disney Plus, you keep your access to it for as long as you're an active Disney Plus subscriber. If you cancel Disney Plus, you obviously won't be able to watch Mulan anymore -- but if you reactivate the same account, your Mulan access will be restored.
What countries will get Mulan online? Where will it be released in theaters?
Disney confirmed Mulan will be released on Disney Plus in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Beyond that, things get fuzzy.
For one, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Mulan would be released in theaters "in certain markets where currently we have no announced launch plans for Disney Plus and where theaters are open."
That raises uncertainty about the Mulan's release in countries where Disney Plus is confirmed to be launching after Mulan's debut. A
Disney Plus is set to launch in eight more European countries on Sept. 15, nearly two weeks after Mulan's premiere: Portugal, Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Disney release plan for Mulan in those countries -- whether in theaters or online -- isn't clear.
And Disney Plus is supposed to launch somehow in Latin America in November, but the company hasn't specified dates or countries yet. Does Latin America count as a place with an announced launch plan, and therefore excluded from theatrical release? Again, it's unclear.
In addition, India has a question mark. Disney Plus operates in India as part of the company's Hotstar service, but Mulan hasn't been confirmed for online release in India yet.
Disney has indicated that any country that is getting Mulan on Disney Plus will be excluded from theatrical release. New Zealand, for example, is confirmed to be getting Mulan on Disney Plus -- but many New Zealand cinemas are open, a benefit of the country keeping the coronavirus largely under control. Kiwi audiences, however, aren't expected to have their choice of seeing Mulan either online or in theaters, because the two release models appear to be mutually exclusive per country.
Will Disney release other movies this way? What about Marvel's Black Widow?
This unconventional release of Mulan is basically an experiment. Disney's CEO Chapek said that Mulan's release strategy doesn't necessarily set a new standard for how other Disney films will reach audiences during (or after) the pandemic. You shouldn't count on other big Disney movies, such as Marvel's Black Widow, following the same path of Mulan.
However, Chapek left the door open to possibly release other movies this way again if Mulan turns out to be a success.
"Mulan is a one-off," Chapek said in early August. "That said, we find it very interesting to be able to ... learn from it and see what happens, not only in terms of the uptake of the number of subscribers that we get on the platform but the actual number of transactions on the Disney Plus platform that we get."
Chapek wouldn't go into detail, but he said that the company's internal research indicated that releasing Mulan this way would not only drum up revenues from $30 purchases but also act as "a fairly large stimulus to sign up for Disney Plus."
Will I be able to watch Mulan online through any stores other than Disney Plus?
Initially, Mulan will be an online exclusive for Disney Plus.
What happens after that is unclear.
After a traditional theatrical release, a movie typically widens to a home-viewing window in a few months, which includes various stages of DVD, Blu-ray and online rental and purchase. Those online rentals and purchases can be through a wide range of stores, but Amazon Video or Apple's TV app are two big ones.
We don't know yet, though, if Disney will keep Mulan as a Disney Plus exclusive or stick to some of those other, standard ways of releasing it for home viewing.
Will people who purchase Mulan on Disney Plus be able to download it to watch offline?
Yes. Once you pay for Mulan, it should be present in your Disney Plus library similar to any other title -- so you should be able to download it, search for it by name, add it to a watchlist, etc.
Disney Plus has a generous download policy. Pretty much everything on the service is available to download for offline viewing. The service limits the number of mobile or tablet devices that its subscribers can download on, allowing no more than 10 devices, but that's the only constraint.
What video and audio formats will Mulan support?
Mulan will be available in ultrahigh definiton and high dynamic range imaging, and it will support Dolby Audio.
Will Mulan have closed captioning for people who are deaf or hard of hearing? Will it have descriptive-audio tracks for people who are blind or have low vision?
Yes. Because Mulan is expected to have the same product features as any other Disney Plus title, that would include accessibility features like closed captions and descriptive audio.
Disney Plus has a strong track record for accessibility. The service supports closed-captioning and descriptive audio, and Disney Plus apps have navigation assistance to help subscribers with disabilities. In July, the American Council of the Blind gave Disney Plus an achievement award for its descriptive audio.
Since new movies need to have closed captions and descriptive audio prepared so theaters can comply with accessibility law, Disney presumably already has those accessibility features on hand for Mulan.
Will I be able to pay for Mulan through my iPhone app? My Android app? Other apps for Disney Plus?
You will be able to buy access to Mulan through disneyplus.com and in the Disney Plus app for Roku, Apple and Google devices. By including support for Apple and Google purchases, that means you'll be able to buy Mulan through your iPhone or Android phone with an in-app purchase.
No other devices are confirmed for purchasing access to the movie, so if you typically watch Disney Plus on an Amazon Fire TV, game console or some other device that isn't listed above, you'll need to log on elsewhere to make the actual Mulan purchase.
Note that this complication only affects where you'll be able to pay for Mulan. Once the transaction is complete, you'll be able to stream Mulan on any device that supports Disney Plus, regardless of app or platform.
How will the Disney Plus user interface accommodate a video-on-demand purchase?
To purchase access to Mulan, members should go to the Mulan page in Disney Plus, which on Sept. 4 will have a button to purchase the movie. If you're using an app on an Apple device or a Google/Android device, the transaction will be a standard in-app purchase. If you're on disneyplus.com, you'll be given the option to charge your card on file, which may require you to enter the card's 3- or 4-digit identification number, or you can choose a different method of payment to purchase the movie.
Once you make your way through the transaction for Mulan successfully, then the title will simply be unlocked as part of your wider Disney Plus catalog. You can find it by searching, adding it to your watchlist or browsing in the Disney section of the app.
A word of warning for anyone who signed up for Disney Plus early: Choosing to pay for Mulan with your card on file could trigger snafus for people who are annual -- or longer -- subscribers. The long lag time in between an annual member's first and only payment to Disney Plus raises the possibility of expired credit cards or anything else that could make an automatic payment go awry.
The very first people who signed up for Disney Plus paid for a discounted three-year subscription, what was known as a Founder's Circle deal. But these subscribers won't have touched their Disney Plus payment details in more than a year by the time Mulan arrives. That could mean that Disney Plus' most loyal subscribers are the ones most likely to run into payment problems if they pay with the default card.
If you fall in those groups, double check sure the card on file is one that's still working.
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