I know what it is in the context of Mulan: the price you pay to watch Mulan before all subscribers can access it for free. But, in this article, I want to talk about the logistics of it, and what it implies for the future.
The Econo-mechanics of Premier Access
Mulan’s release date was pushed back in March 2020 (from March 2020) to July. In July, it was moved to August, before being taken off the release schedule on the 23rd. Bob Chapek announced that Mulan would be appearing on Disney+ on 4 August, which is 12 days after its removal from the theatrical schedule. Now, I don’t have any insider knowledge of the Disney+ platform or the company itself, but I do know how much it costs to develop a new payment system into a platform. You know the phrase: time = money? That is exceptionally true with regards to software development. Disney would have had to invest significant sums of money on developing the platform in such a truncated timeframe. Now, I’m not suggesting that they did it all in those 12 days. But, what I am suggesting is that they did the bulk of it within those 12 days.
To invest millions on a platform for a singular movie seems a bit overkill, especially because there’s a huge risk they won’t make that ROI. Therefore, in my view, they didn’t just develop the for Mulan. They had the Premier Access platform ready to go, and just waited for the right movie to place on it. They needed a blockbuster.
But, didn’t Bob Chapek say that Mulan was a “one-off”?
Yes, indeed he did. He also said that they would be trialling out this format and using the information to help them handle future releases. And, I should add, Disney removed the “No extra costs” branding from their website. They removed the free trial, and now the Help page on the free trial says that the service does not generally include one. The hard truth is that Disney is not bound by its statements it makes to the public, only those it makes to the investors, and the investors got a much more nuanced clarification of the platform than the headlines would have you believe.
I should also reiterate that the chances of Premier Access being built specifically for Mulan are slim. If you look at the timing of things, Disney never announced all the locations that Mulan would be on the service. It took over a week from the US announcement for the UK to have confirmation of this; it took a few days from the US announcement for countries like Australia and Canada to have their pricing confirmed. I think that this was because of rights issues, i.e. something Disney had to do for Mulan specifically. The cause of the delay wasn’t setting up the platform, it was making sure that it was legal to have the movie there.
Then, what is Premier Access?
My prediction is this: Premier Access is the platform Disney has built for its service to give fans a 3-month early access to blockbuster movies. They have indicated to shareholders that they don’t intend on scrapping theatrical launches, so I think the way the platform could work is by having a dual release window. The reason I say 3 months is because, if you read my article from earlier today, you’ll see that fans everywhere are getting the date 4 December 2020 for Mulan’s wide release to all subscribers. This is exactly 3 months after its debut on Premier Access, right down to the day. That 3-month window is something very particular regarding theatrical releases, where it typically takes 3 months for a movie to go from theatres to rental, then it’ll be another 3 months for home release. There is no hard and fast rule about this, it’s just done on industry goodwill. Essentially, what Disney has done with Premier Access is truncated those two 3-month windows into one, and I believe that they will continue to do this.
If this article from The Dis Insider (based on a finding by Murphy’s Multiverse) is to be believed, Disney is likely to introduce more movies via Premier Access. In my view, they could have 4 movies each year, because every time one leaves Premier Access, another one comes on. If this is the case, 4 December is about 1 month after Black Widow is meant to debut in theatres, which probably gives you an idea as to what could possibly come on next.
Let me know what you think! Would you like to see movies 3 months early if it meant you had to pay a bit more? I certainly would!