Weekly E-Newsletter

Disney’s decision to debut Pixar’s ‘Soul’ on Disney Plus at no extra cost shows how it’s changing strategies after its ‘Mulan’ experiment

Another major movie was taken off of the theatrical release calendar as theater chains like Regal and Cineworld shut down again in the US and UK last week.

Last Thursday, Disney announced that its upcoming Pixar movie, “Soul,” would debut on its streaming service Disney Plus on December 25 and, unlike “Mulan,” would be available to subscribers at no additional cost.

It’s the latest sign that Disney wasn’t thrilled with how its $200 million “Mulan” remake performed on the service with a premium video-on-demand model. Disney released the movie to Disney Plus on September 4 to subscribers for an additional $30 fee. The company has yet to release any official viewership figures, but third-party data paints an underwhelming picture.

Analytics company Samba TV said that “Mulan” was watched by 1.12 million US households on connected TVs in its debut weekend and estimated it made $33.5 million that weekend.

The movie did appear on a recently released list of Nielsen’s top streaming titles for the week of August 31 to September 6 at No. 10 with 525 million minutes watched. But it dropped out of the top 10 the following week, suggesting it didn’t sustain strong viewership after its first weekend.

The Take

Granted, “Soul” is a very different kind of movie than “Mulan” and didn’t cost nearly as much to produce. But Disney seems to have concluded that the subscribers “Soul” might attract (or retain) justify not releasing it at a premium price.

This isn’t the first movie intended for theaters that Disney has released straight to Disney Plus during the pandemic, others being “Artemis Fowl” and “The One and Only Ivan.” But “Soul” is different because Disney seemed to be committing to a theatrical release until Regal and Cineworld closed again.

Another decision Disney recently made also suggests that the “Mulan” experiment wasn’t a huge success. Disney delayed the Marvel movie “Black Widow” from a November theatrical release to next year.

Last month, the research firm Lightshed Partners proposed in a report that movie studios should pivot to SVOD (streaming video-on-demand) services like Netflix amid the pandemic, meaning Disney should make its movies available on Disney Plus at no extra cost, like it’s doing with “Soul.”

“If studios want to harness the power of SVOD, the only answer is to go all-in and not look back,” the report said, adding that Disney has the “infrastructure and scale to make this transition.”

Source: Business Insider



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