When Mulan's rescheduled July debut fell back to August and then September, it was a sign blockbusters were nowhere near returning to theaters. Moving the film to Disney's ultra-successful Disney+ streaming service seemed like a no-brainer, as the streamer needed content, and Disney needed to start releasing movies. But it's not that easy. Disney has created an entire new section for Disney+ to accommodate Mulan's release, called Premier Access. But what is Disney+ Premier Access, and how will it work?
Up until now, there have been two kinds of streaming. There's SVOD (Subscriber Video on Demand), where you pay every month and get everything available on that service, like Netflix. Then there's PVOD (Paid Video on Demand), with which you can rent a movie for a set period of time, for a one-time fee.
Movies like Mulan are large-budget films expected to make back the money spent on making them via box office proceeds. PVOD can be used as a box office substitute, since viewers pay directly for the film. However, to debut them on an SVOD service like Disney+, where there's no money directly paid to watch the film, means there's no explicit profit. But with subscribers already paying a monthly fee for Disney+, Disney can't just put Mulan on a non-Disney+ PVOD service without audiences feeling cheated.
Instead, Disney is trying to merge the two VODs into one service. Mulan will debut on the SVOD fans are already paying for, but as a PVOD extra, which Disney is branding as "Premier Access."
Here's how it's going to work. Mulan will appear as a banner when you open the Disney+ app. Click on it, and this message appears:
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 and select platforms. Once you have Premier Access to Mulan, you can watch as many times as you want on any platform where Disney+ is available. Your access to Mulan will continue as long as you are an active Disney+ subscriber.
The good news is, Disney's $29.99 Premier Access fee isn't a true single-use PVOD. It's a one-time payment to watch the movie repeatedly as long as one has Disney+. But there's also good news for those who want to see Mulan, but don't have an extra $30 to spare. Fans with Premier Access get to see it "before it's available to all subscribers." That means eventually, Mulan will likely be available as a regular SVOD title.
But this also makes it a little dicier for Disney. Mulan was made on a $200 million budget. To earn back that money, at $30 a pop, Disney needs at least 6.6 million Premier Access subscribers.
That sounds like a lot. But Disney+ already has 54.5 million subscribers, meaning only 12% of their current users need to spring for Premier Access. Considering how many subscribers are hardcore Disney fans who want to see the new live-action Mulan as soon as it debuts, that's probably a doable number.
Mulan arrives on Disney+ as a Premier Access title on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020.