Disney delays Mulan to Aug 21

LOS ANGELES • Walt Disney will delay the release of its new Mulan film for a second time, setting the movie back about a month to Aug 21, in the latest reshuffling to hit movie theatres.

"While the pandemic has changed our release plans for Mulan and we will continue to be flexible as conditions require, it has not changed our belief in the power of this film and its message of hope and perseverance," Mr Alan Horn and Mr Alan Bergman, co-chairmen of Walt Disney Studios, said in a joint statement.

The move sets up director Christopher Nolan's thriller, Tenet, to be the first potential blockbuster since the pandemic hit, assuming it does not get rescheduled again too. That film was delayed twice and is now slated for Aug 12.

Disney has a supernatural horror thriller, The Empty Man, scheduled for an Aug 7 release. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has also pushed back the science-fiction comedy, Bill & Ted Face The Music, until Aug 28.

Mulan, a US$200 million (S$278 million) live-action remake of the 1998 animated hit of the same name, stars Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jet Li and Gong Li. It was being marketed for a debut in March when Covid-19 prompted the closure of theatres all over the world.

Disney executives were hoping some of that marketing - such as the film's red-carpet premiere and interviews with stars - would carry forward to the new release date. It was previously scheduled for July 24.

Cinema executives are mostly planning to reopen next month, but without fresh content, consumers are unlikely to return in large numbers.

Meanwhile, Hollywood has been releasing its films on home video or streaming platforms to capture some dollars and promote those new services. For example, Disney+ is releasing Hamilton, a filmed version of the Broadway show, on Friday. The musical was originally scheduled to appear in theatres next year.

Movies have been a huge profit driver for Disney, thanks in part to remakes of classics such as The Jungle Book (2016) and Aladdin (2019). The studio generated nearly US$2.9 billion in operating income last year, or 18 per cent of the company's total.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2020, with the headline 'Disney delays Mulan to Aug 21'. Print Edition | Subscribe