Disney's live-action Mulan will be the first major film released into recently reopened movie theaters after Warner Bros. shifted director Christopher Nolan's Tenet from July 17 to July 31, one week after Mulan's scheduled July 24 opening. A live-action re-imagining of Disney's 1998 animated musical that featured the voices of Ming-Na Wen, BD Wong, and Eddie Murphy, Mulan was among the first films postponed by the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, just two weeks before its original March 27 opening date. The action drama directed by Niki Caro took the July 24 release date previously held by planned summer tentpole Jungle Cruise, now setting sail July 2021.
When theaters resume operations for the first time in months, moviegoers will be welcomed back by Russell Crowe thriller Unhinged and romance drama The Broken Hearts Gallery, both releasing July 10. If plans remain on course, Disney releases Mulan two weeks later as the first big-budget film to screen in theaters since Disney-Pixar's animated Onward in March prematurely ended its theatrical run amid widespread theater closures.
One month ago, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Mulan and other tentpole movies with blockbuster potential — including Marvel Studios' Black Widow, delayed from May 1 to November 6, and Pixar's Soul, pushed from June 19 to November 20 — would not skip theaters for premium VOD or be released directly to the Disney+ streaming service after the company pulled the planned theatrical release of Artemis Fowl.
"We believe in the theatrical experience, particularly to launch big blockbuster franchise films," Chapek said on CNBC's Squawk Alley. "It fuels the entire Disney company, from consumer products to theme parks all the way to Disney+. And so we really think that's the smart way to launch our big, tentpole films."
As for which films will skip the theatrical window for direct debuts on Disney+, as was the case with Artemis Fowl, those decisions will be made on a "very deliberate basis," Chapek added.
"There's not going to be any hard and fast rules," Chapek said. "I think what the situation with COVID has taught us is that you need to remain flexible, you need to remain nimble, and we will remain nimble."
Chapek added the company "does believe in that theatrical window," reaffirming the stance of his predecessor, Bob Iger, who previously told Barron's Disney will "simply wait for slots" when making its bigger films available to consumers.
The company remains open to sending smaller films straight to streaming, including The One and Only Ivan, which has surrendered its August 14 theatrical release date. It will now premiere exclusively on Disney+ August 21.
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.
Starring Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Gong Li, Yoson An and Jet Li, Mulan is currently scheduled to open in theaters July 24.