Disney 'very pleased' with Mulan debut ahead of China opening

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) – Walt Disney is“very pleased” with initial results of its unusual release strategy for live-action movie epic Mulan, chief financial officer Christine McCarthy said at an investor conference on Wednesday (Sept 9).

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mulan was made available for purchase in the United States on the Disney+ streaming platform over the Labour Day weekend, and in movie theatres in a handful of other countries.

The film will debut in cinemas in China, the world’s second-largest movie market, on Friday.

“We are very pleased with what we saw” over the Labour Day weekend, said McCarthy, who spoke via online video to the Citi 2020 Global Technology Conference.

Mulan, a US$200 million (S$270 million) remake of an animated Disney classic about a female warrior in China, was designed to appeal to audiences in the country.

But the movie has run into controversy over its star’s support of Hong Kong police and for being partly filmed in the Xinjiang region, where China’s clampdown on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims has been criticised by some governments, including the United States, and human rights groups.

Disney had originally planned for to release the film in theatres around the world in March but scrapped that plan when the novel coronavirus spread.

McCarthy said Disney ultimately decided to launch Mulan online in markets where Disney+ is available because many theatres remained closed and surveys showed most people were not ready to return to theatres during the pandemic.

“It was not an easy decision to make because there were so many factors at play here,” she said.

Samba TV, which tracks viewership on smart TVs, estimated that more than 1.1 million US households paid US$30 each to watch Mulan on Disney+ between Friday and Monday.

That would translate to US$33.5 million in revenue from the film, plus additional earnings from anyone who became a new Disney+ monthly subscriber.

Samba TV said its estimates were calculated using data from smart TV owners who opted in to the Samba TV app and agreed to provide viewing information.

Disney had no comment on the Samba TV figures.

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