Mulan’s producer Jason Reed, who was also a former Walt Disney Studios EVP. recently gave an interview to Deadline to discuss the new film. During the interview, Reed talked about the decision to release the film on Disney+. You can read his full and very detailed response below:
DEADLINE: Movie theaters are still reopening from the pandemic. It’s going to be a while before New York and LA come back online. What is your take on Mulan’s move to Disney+ (in territories which have the streaming service), and were you a part of that distribution decision?
JASON REED: I was not part of that decision. We were aware that it was a possibility and we have been very much involved in the conversations about when and how to release the movie, although ultimately that was always Disney’s decision. I think we find ourselves in extraordinary times and I don’t think that anything that is happening during the pandemic is setting a precedent for what has to happen in the future. However, I do think that the pandemic has accelerated plans that we were already seeing. In our industry, as well as every other industries, my sense is that what we were seeing and what we’ve been seeing is a more dynamic distribution model evolving, one that tailors the distribution for the creative content as much as it does for the actual business model that’s preexisting; whether that’s day and date theatrical and streaming or whether it’s a hybrid approach like this is going to be, where some territories are theatrical and some territories are streaming only.
There’s going to be, I believe, a period of time where all of these things become arrows in the quiver and it’s not going to fall back into the old model of, well, here’s the windows that we have and here’s the order in which we go, and here’s how long each one is if we’re going to individually sell off those windows where we have a big movie and it’s going to do X, and then we’re going to put it in the drive-ins and second-run theaters, and then we’re going to put it out in premium, and then we’re going to put it here, and then it’ll run on television. I don’t think that’s going to continue as a set-in-stone model, but what I think what we will see is exhibition and distribution having to figure out how to best optimize each unit, and if it’s a small indie movie with a very specific audience, well, then streaming only might be the best approach to getting that to the most number of people.
If it’s a big spectacular film that really demands a theatrical release, well, then maybe it goes into theatrical with a long run, maybe it goes for a short run, and goes to a premium SVOD or electronic cell model. I think that everything is open, and everything is going to change. My personal belief is that the theatrical experience will continue regardless of the business trends because I think there is a real value to communal film watching. Whether it’s a big comedy, or a big event film, or a big action movie, the experience is enhanced by sitting with an audience and I think that because even if something’s available on streaming there still might be a theatrical release. There are films that I still sneak off and go see at revival houses all the time because I think it’s really fun.
Now that the Paramount Decrees are gone, I’m very curious to see what happens with exhibition over the next five years. Looking back at the Spanish Flu pandemic, of 1918-1919, that really led to the creation of exhibition. Prior to that, they were basically little mom and pop shops, so with one screen, two screens owned by a family, and when the pandemic shut everything down they all were going bankrupt. So, Adolph Zucker, and soon to be followed by many others, went in and started buying them up out of bankruptcy, or out of desperation and built those additional studio exhibition arms, which then got tossed out, which ended that stuff because of the Paramount Decree, but it laid the foundation for the studio system that operated really until the ‘80s, late ‘70s and that is something that came out of that stronger than it had ever been. By 1921 they were already doing much higher business than they did prior, so I don’t see any reason to think that this pandemic is going to cause any long-term harm to the business, and in fact, I think there’s a lot of indication that it will position the business in a much better place going forward.
Last month, Disney made the decision to release Mulan on its streaming service after the film’s theatrical release was delayed several times due to the coronavirus pandemic. The film was originally first scheduled to premiere in theaters on March 27th. The film was then moved to July 24th, then again to August 21st, and then the film was removed from Disney’s theatrical calendar entirely before the announcement that it was coming to Disney+.
Starting September 4, with Premier Access, you can watch Mulan before it’s available to all Disney+ subscribers. Disney+ will offer Premier Access to Mulan for $29.99 on disneyplus.com. Once you have Premier Access to Mulan, you can watch as many times as you want on any platform where Disney+ is available. On December 4th, Mulan will be available to watch for “free” to all Disney+ subscribers.
Acclaimed filmmaker Niki Caro brings the epic tale of China’s legendary warrior to life in Disney’s Mulan, in which a fearless young woman risks everything out of love for her family and her country to become one of the greatest warriors China has ever known. When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.
Mulan features a celebrated international cast that includes: Yifei Liu as Mulan; Donnie Yen as Commander Tung; Tzi Ma as Zhou, Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan; Yoson An as Honghui; Ron Yuan as Sergeant Qiang; with Gong Li as Xianniang and Jet Li as the Emperor. The film is directed by Niki Caro from a screenplay by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Lauren Hynek & Elizabeth Martin, suggested by the narrative poem “The Ballad of Mulan.” The producers are Chris Bender, Jake Weiner and Jason Reed, with Bill Kong, Barrie M. Osborne, Tim Coddington and Mario Iscovich serving as executive producers.