Disney's Mulan may no longer be relesed in mid-July following a surge in COVID-19 cases in the United States and a similar rise in cases in China. The movie, which was originally set for release in March before being pushed to July as a result of the pandemic, may have to move again, since Disney is likely to take a big opening weekend loss. Theaters around the country are preparing to reopen in the coming weeks, but as cases rise and cities and states have to consider slowing the process of fully reopening, it may be difficult to justify rushing movies out to theaters if they have to make more money to break even than the theaters have seats.
In May, Disney's new CEO Bob Chapek confirmed that the plan was still to release Mulan in July, but it wasn't until after Memorial Day that the coronavirus diagnoses started to soar. The combination of holiday parties, states reopening aggressively, and the recent, nationwide protests against police brutality have all been floated as likely contributors to the increased number of COVID-19 patients.
The Hollywood Reporter claims that its sources have expressed doubt about the viability of a July 14 release date for Mulan, which the studio has repeatedly said will have a theatrical release and not debut on Disney+ or Hulu. A number of other recent releases either went to home entertainment platforms earlier than expected, or skipped theaters entirely and debuted there, as a result of changes to the marketplace as a result of the pandemic.
Movies like Mulan or Disney's forthcoming Marvel release Black Widow are expected to open at $100 million or more at the domestic box office in order to eventually turn a profit. China, which has quickly become the world's fastest-growing market for American blockbusters and one of the world's largest markets altogether, would also play a key role in making the movie successful. In the case of Mulan, Disney has high hopes for the Chinese market, since the movie loosely adapts a Chinese folk tale. With both the U.S. and China struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic again and thousands of people dying a day around the world, theater chains are planning to practice social distancing as they reopen, making it difficult to have theaters anywhere near capacity. And while AMC had laid out a timeline that had hoped for a return to normal by Thanksgiving in the U.S., that plan too is likely in jeopardy.
There is no word yet on whether Tenet, Christopher Nolan's latest Warner Bros. tentpole, might move from its July 31 release date.