Like many of you, there were a ton of movies that were on my hit list this year. From Black Widow to find out just how John Cena is related to Dominic Toretto, I had a lot of movie plans that I was excited for. You know the drill, getting there early, eating all the popcorn during the trailers, getting hyped on what’s happening on screen. You know, the typical movie experience. And then, COVID hit. The rest is kind of history. Movies have been put on an indefinite hold as we wait to see when it’s safe to open theaters again. Honestly, who knows when that’s going to happen and it’s a bummer. I miss going to the movies. The movies isn’t just about the film it’s about the entire experience. Going to the theater whether it’s with friends or by yourself (no shame there, some of my favorite theater experiences were by myself), the giddiness, the film itself, the conversations that follow, not to mention that it gets you out of the house for a bit. Something I think we can all relate to lately.
While most of the major summer blockbusters have been shelved, that’s not to say there haven’t been some really enjoyable films this year. Palm Springs on Hulu immediately jumps to mind and I’m not ashamed to admit that I really enjoyed Extraction and The Old Guard on Netflix. These were all fun, entertaining, and in the case of Palm Springs, superb films. But I would be lying if I said no amount of microwave popcorn could replace the smell of a movie theater lobby.
As we’ve waited for news on when/if theaters could open or when we can expect to see these shelved movies, we’ve turned our eyes to the streaming networks especially Disney and Warner Brothers. Two companies that own the rights to all their films and have a streaming platform where they can be viewed if need be. Granted, we all know that putting out a movie is about making the almighty dollar but one would think that these films could attract new subscribers to the streaming platforms. Something HBO Max could probably use considering the launch was a bit of a mess. Disney+ is already ahead of their five-year plan but we all know the Mouse isn’t going to say no to extra dollars. In fact, at the start of the pandemic, they released Onward to VOD a couple of weeks before putting it on Disney+. Something that at the time felt like a fair compromise. I can either pay twenty dollars for this now or just be patient and get it through my subscription package in a couple of weeks. That answer seemed to be pretty easy but Disney did turn a profit on the VOD. Not everyone can subscribe to allllll the streaming platforms and children that are suddenly cooped up indoors need immediate entertainment. How else are parents going to sigh for a minute?
This seemed like a pretty good formula and immediately had fans speculating if Disney could do this with other films, *ahem* Black Widow *ahem*. It wasn’t likely but we could hope, couldn’t we? Well Disney, after pushing back releases even further or indefinitely, heard us fans and then flipped what we expected.
The live-action version of Mulan was set to be one of Disney’s big releases this year. Considering how well they’ve done with these live-action adaptations, I think Aladdin made over a billion dollars, one can understand why Disney would be disappointed having to shelve the project. Parks are closed. No new movies. Disney needs to make those Disney bucks somehow and yesterday they devised a plan on how to get some of that money back. A plan, that looks pretty lame and more or less screams big corporate greed.
Instead of releasing Mulan to VOD a couple of weeks ahead of placing it on the streaming network, the execs over at Disney thought they would offer it through Disney+ buuuuuut with a twist. Subscribers, who are already paying a monthly fee mind you, can watch Mulan through the network for thirty dollars. That’s right, you can pay thirty dollars, which is a higher cost than buying the film outright on Blu-Ray or iTunes, on top of your subscription fee to see Mulan in September.
I’m sorry but, what?!
This just seems like a slap in the face to the majority of fans. “Thanks for using our streaming service now pay extra money to see that movie that’s been on hold even though it’s most likely going to be available on this here streaming service in like a month. We just want all your money. Money, money, money.” Especially when one considers how tight the economy has become because of the pandemic. Yes, I understand that that tightness also affects big companies like Disney but this seems like a pretty shady compromise. Asking fans to pay an additional thirty dollars for a movie when the average movie ticket is about fifteen bucks is a bit much. Sure, the cost balances out if you have a family at home. A family of four going to the theater could be a seventy-dollar outing and in that respect, the cost might not seem that high. But consider how many single subscriptions there are. You’re now asking John Smith to pay thirty dollars to see a movie he was excited about on top of his monthly fee. It doesn’t add up or seem right. In fact, I think this is a pretty tough look for Disney.
Let’s look at Hamilton for instance. This was a film that was supposed to have a theatrical release and considering that most of us are on a lifetime waiting list for the play, one can believe it would have done fairly well in theaters. Disney understood this wasn’t going to happen so what did they do? They threw Hamilton up on Disney+ and everyone lost their faces about it. I would argue that the film did better because of the streaming service than it would have in theaters. Suddenly everyone had access to it and everyone was talking about it, making TikToks about it, or meming it up. There’s no doubt that it brought in new subscribers to the service because an eight dollar monthly fee seems way better than giving away your firstborn for theater tickets.
Sure, not everything can be given away for “free”, even though it’s not free when you’re paying for a subscription, I understand that. But there has to be a better plan then asking your fans to pay additional fees that out weight the normal cost of a movie ticket during a time where people are out of work because of a pandemic. Disney’s plan here was to make people excited to see Mulan but instead, I think they’ve soured fans on the film. Sure, the Disney fanatics might pay to see it in September but the average subscriber most likely won’t. And now a movie that had some hype around it, despite the lack of Mushu, is the center of a streaming controversy. And sure, there’s no such thing as bad press but one has to believe that this type of bad press will affect Disney’s wallet. Which might be the only way this mega-corporation hears us.
Disney has promised us that this isn’t the way going forward. That this presentation of Mulan is a one time deal which begs the question, why even do it? If this isn’t a model that you’re looking to stick to doesn’t it make this look even shadier? Is Disney expecting this experiment to flop or are they lying to us in hopes that they can make some cheddar cheese on a movie that’s kind of sitting in purgatory. Either way, it’s left a bad taste in my mouth. I can only hope that this experiment isn’t successful so I don’t have to stress about them doing this with Black Widow because when push comes to shove, I refuse to pay an extra thirty dollars for a movie when I’m already paying a subscription fee. Despite how badly I want to see the film.
What do you think Geeklings? Are you willing to shell out thirty dollars to see Mulan on Disney+? Do you think this is a fair trade from Disney? Sound off in the comments or throw me a line on Twitter @iamgeek32 and let me know what you think. To Mulan or not to Mulan is now the question and we get to answer it come September. I’m curious to see what happens.