In a sea of what-could-have-been summer blockbusters this year, Disney's live-action adaption of Mulan was always a strong contender to earn a billion+ dollars at the global box-office. Then the lockdown happened, and suddenly the very nature of blockbuster cinema was threatened. Now, in an interview with CNBC, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has confirmed that they are still planning to stick to Mulan's July theatrical release:
At Disney, we're a bunch of optimists. I think that's a good date for this title. You have to balance people's anxieties about going out in public with the pent-up demand.
'Optimist' is a fair manner to describe anyone who is willing to release a movie in July and expect it to do well. Keeping in mind that Mulan, made on a budget of at least $200 million, will need to cross half a billion dollars at the box office just to break even. This it could have easily done in a pre-lockdown environment, even with the controversy surrounding the film's lead actress in China.
But now, even if theaters are to reopen entirely across America by July, it is extremely unlikely that the rest of the world will follow suit. Even more unlikely is the possibility that theaters will be immediately flooded with audiences upon reopening and the box office will be restored to its former glory at once.
As powerful as the Disney brand is, it is unlikely to prove strong enough to convince the majority of the audience to sit in a crowded theater together just to watch a live-action remake of an animated movie whose story everyone is already aware of.
Comparing Mulan's release to a 'Stairstep situation', Chapek described Disney's plan to slowly restart the various part of their company, a plan which has already swung into action with the gradual reopening of Disney theme parks. This strategy is of dire necessity to the Mouse Empire, which has been losing billions in revenue since the lockdown came into effect.
Mulan, both the live-action remake and the animated original, are based on Chinese folklore about a young woman who disguises herself as a man to take the place of her aged father in the Chinese army. The original Disney movie was a musical, while the trailer for the live-action film reimagines the story as a war-epic.
Disney's strategy of remaking their cult animations as live-action films has been criticized by some as a lazy way of cashing in on fan nostalgia. But there is no doubt as to its effectiveness. Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King all cleared a billion dollars at the box office. Thanks to their performance, along with the dominance of MCU films, Disney has become the most powerful movie studio on the planet.
It remains to be seen if Disney will hold on to that title in a post-lockdown world. Not that other studios are in any better shape. But what has proved catastrophic for movie theaters has been a boon for digital streaming platforms, and that is where Disney might be looking to focus their resources in the near future with Disney+. This was first reported by CNBC.