Entertainment Movies Disney’s Mulan experiment could change cinema forever
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Disney’s Mulan experiment could change cinema forever

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Cinemas are still in limbo for much of the world, and it appears movies are getting tired of waiting to be seen.

After putting off the release date several times, Disney has announced it will be premiering the live-action version of Mulan – with a twist.

The $US200 million film will be released on streaming platform Disney+ before it’s shown in any theatres, from September 4.

It’ll cost $US29.99, on top of a monthly Disney+ subscription fee.

As movie upon movie banks up, waiting for a post-coronavirus world to resume, it was only a matter of time before someone tested the waters in sending new releases straight to streaming – for a pretty price.

Victoria University senior screen media lecturer Marc C-Scott made this prediction last month.

Now, all eyes will be on Disney+ on September 4, when Mulan hits TVs.

“I think it’s an interesting move and one that was probably coming, but COVID-19 has gone longer than what many would have predicted it was going to, so it’s forced their hand to try this sooner,” Dr C-Scott told The New Daily.

We’ll all be watching

Although it starts to pave the way for other players to do similar, it also heralds a new way of consuming movie and television content into the future, he said.

What he predicts could happen is – depending on the results from this Mulan test, which will be a closely guarded company secret – movies could begin to be released on streaming platforms at the same time as in cinemas, or just weeks after they premiere in cinemas, made available to at-home viewers for a premium price.

To further differentiate the service from what’s already available, there could even be the possibility to amp up your streaming access to a premium account.

Instead of just $9.99 a month, for an extra $30 a month would give you access to all the new-release movies at the same time as they hit cinemas.

This time around, it’s just a one-off payment for one movie.

While upfront, the $US30 price (the Australian cost hasn’t been released yet) might seem steep, once you factor in the cost of cinema tickets for a family, it balances out.

“It will be interesting to see if Disney tries this outside of the family genre; a Marvel film, that’s geared more towards adults,” Dr C-Scott said.

Indie or low-budget films have gone straight to streaming previously, Dr C-Scott noted, but it’s not often seen with multimillion-dollar blockbusters of this calibre.

Two-speed television

If this is the way the cinematic experience could go in the future, even post-pandemic, it has flow-on effects for consumers.

Even those who aren’t interested in streaming services or being the first to see new movies, Dr C-Scott explained.

If the Mulan experiment is successful – if viewers pay for and enjoy the at-home experience – it could open new avenues for the way we access television, too.

TV channels could jump on board by offering their subscriptions as a premium – you’re the first to get the latest episodes. They’ll then drop onto free-to-air TV a month or more later, Dr C-Scott suggested.

“It’s interesting that Disney has done it, and it has some larger repercussions for the future of the film industry and the future of TV,” he said.