Studios make big gambles with ‘Mulan’ and ‘Tenet’ releases

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Cast members Ron Yuan, Yifei Liu, Jason Scott Lee and Yoson An pose with director Niki Caro, at the European premiere for the film "Mulan" in London, Britain, March 12, 2020. Photo by Henry Nicholls/Reuters.

Disney’s “Mulan” and Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” will finally see the light of day this Labor Day weekend after months of delays, marking two very different pandemic release strategies.

The opening of “Tenet” in theaters will raise questions about what box office success looks like during a pandemic.  The release of “Mulan” on Disney+ will test whether subscribers are willing to pay a premium price for new content. Disney hopes that the allure of a beloved franchise will be enough to draw audiences in, while Warner Bros. hopes that a Christopher Nolan film will be enough to revive interest in theatergoing.

For both multi-million dollar films, it’s unclear what the metric of success will be. Theater chains in the U.S. are still closed in many major markets, including New York, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area, and many are operating at limited capacity, which limits the amount of box office success “Tenet” will even have.

The case of “Mulan” could also be pivotal to Disney’s release strategy. If the film does well, it could serve as a model for the company moving forward.  “Mulan” will go on sale to Disney+ subscribers for the premium price of $29.99, and it will also stream to all Disney+ subscribers in December. Both films will be released overseas.

As “Mulan” and “Tenet” prepare to be released, production on next year’s blockbuster “The Batman” has shut down temporarily. Early reports have indicated that star Robert Pattinson — who also appears in “Tenet” — has tested positive for coronavirus in London.



Kaitlin Parker