Mulan, Disney’s latest live-action adaptation of a beloved animated classic, was originally supposed to be released into cinemas in March, but then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. When the movie was forced to miss its newly delayed slot as well, Disney had to take drastic action. So when the studio announced that it would be switching the release of its $200 million tentpole from traditional theatres to a premium-priced VOD offering on Disney+, it made a lot of sense. Well, it’s now apparently also made a lot of cents. Like billions of cents to be exact.
According to figures from Disney’s latest earnings report, the number of subscribers that have purchased Mulan via its $30 premium release on the Mouse House’ streaming service is substantial. Maybe. Unfortunately, much like Netflix, Disney+ numbers are a bit obfuscated, requiring some inference. Yahoo has the breakdown via third-party analytics research firm 7Park Data whose figures indicate that “nearly 29% of U.S. households that subscribe to Disney+ purchased the $30 Mulan film through September 12th — far surpassing other popular (and free) titles on the platform.”
Now we don’t know the exact number of Disney+ subscribers worldwide, but Disney did recently reveal that it has surpassed the 60 million mark. We also know that the US makes up the biggest singular slice of that number as the service is still being rolled out in many other international regions. Using that as a basis for some logic, Yahoo assumes that US households make up at least 50% of the total subscriber base, which by 7Park Data’s numbers equates to around 9 million users who forked out the extra $30 on top of their monthly subscription fee for Mulan. Trimming that down a bit just to be conservative, Yahoo estimates that this meant Mulan has already earned over $260 million since it debuted on 4 September. And that’s just in the US! We’re not yet including Disney+ sales from other regions, nor money earned in countries where Mulan opened in cinemas like here in South Africa.
Even just going by guesstimates and not cold hard data, it definitely looks like Disney’s bold experiment has paid off big time for the studio. Remember, studios usually still have to split money earned from traditional releases with theatre owners. Every single cent of this $260 million is going straight to Disney alone. By comparison, Tenet has now only earned about $250 million worldwide from its controversial theatrical release despite being out for three weeks, and Warner Bros will still only get a portion of that money.
As we mentioned recently, Mulan will be made free to all regular subscribers in December, so Disney loses that premium price revenue. However, you can be sure that it will also be a big driver in new subscriptions, earning Disney even more money. Either way you cut it, this has been one massively successful experiment. Disney previously indicated that Mulan’s Disney+ release was a once-off contingency driven by the unique situation of this year, but that has to be changing now.
There’s a very strong indication that Disney will be delaying Marvel’s Black Widow again from its current 6 November slot, while Pixar’s Soul is already rumoured to get moved to Disney+. Maybe Black Widow joins it on Disney+ as well for the same split release model like Mulan. With the rabid Marvel fanbase and Black Widow’s lower production costs, it would undoubtedly be even more profitable. And if there’s one thing the Mouse House has never been in the habit of doing, it’s turning down ways to make more money.
Last Updated: September 18, 2020