Disney+ downloads and consumer spending on the app jumped this weekend, a sign that Mulan’s digital-first release led to increased demand despite an extra $29.99 charge to watch the movie and providing further evidence that streaming services may be able to increase revenue by charging more for premium content.
Disney+ downloads increased by 68% and coincided with a 193% increase in consumer spending on the app from the premiere on September 4 through September 6 compared to one weekend prior, according to preliminary data from the mobile app data analytics company Sensor Tower, first reported by Bloomberg.
Disney announced in August that due to the coronavirus pandemic, it would scrap the theatrical release of the $200 million live-action remake of Mulan in countries with access to Disney+, including the United States, Canada and New Zealand, and would have limited theater distribution in other countries.
CEO Bob Chapek told analysts during an August earnings call that Disney wanted to use Mulan’s release to test if the strategy would lead to increased revenue and downloads.
The preliminary data, which only reflects downloads from Apple and Google stores, suggests that streaming subscribers are indeed willing to pay extra fees to purchase content.
Disney isn’t the only production company to try a premium content strategy as the pandemic led to movie theater shutdowns worldwide; Universal Pictures released Trolls World Tour as a $19.99 digital rental in April and reportedly racked up $100 million in rentals during the first three weeks, more than the first film earned during five months in theaters.
Mulan star Liu Yifei became the center of controversy in August when she posted a pro-police comment on Chinese social media platform Weibo at the height of the violence in Hong Kong. “I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now. What a shame for Hong Kong,” she reportedly wrote. Critics saw it as supporting police brutality and #BoycottMulan trended on Twitter. There were also calls to boycott the movie after its release.
Mulan is the first Disney-branded film to feature an all-Asian cast and it is the most expensive live-action film with a female director. Niki Caro is one of just four women directors to helm live-action films with a budget north of $100 million. Caro, who said she resonated with the feminist story, assembled a mostly female crew.
‘Mulan’ Streaming Release Brings Jump in Disney+ App Downloads (Bloomberg)
Inside Disney’s Bold $200M Gamble on ‘Mulan’: “The Stakes Couldn’t Be Higher” (Hollywood Reporter)
Hong Kong protesters call for ‘Mulan’ boycott after star went public in support of police (CNN)