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What 'Mulan's' Disney+ Premiere Means For The Film Industry

NOEL KING, HOST:

The Walt Disney Company reported yesterday a loss of $4.7 billion in its third quarter. It also announced a surprise for its streaming service, Disney+. Here's NPR's Mandalit del Barco.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: In a call to investors, Disney CEO Bob Chapek ticked off some of the challenges the company has faced in the past quarter. Ongoing concerns over COVID-19 closed down Disney theme parks and resorts, retail stores, cruise ships, sporting events and TV and film production around the world. One hundred thousand Disney employees were furloughed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOB CHAPEK: The impact of the pandemic on people's lives, our communities, businesses and way of life has been devastating.

DEL BARCO: But Chapek told investors that Disney theme parks in Shanghai and Florida have reopened with safety protocols in place. And he says the new streaming service, Disney+, now has 60.5 million subscribers around the world. And that's the silver lining for Disney, which announced a new movie set to premiere on the platform on September 4.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MULAN (2020)")

YIFEI LIU: (As Mulan) Loyal, brave and true - it is my duty to protect my family.

DEL BARCO: Disney's live-action version of "Mulan" is skipping its theatrical release, which had been postponed several times since March. Instead, it will be available on Disney+ for $29.99. "Mulan" and Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" had been seen as bellwethers for when movie theaters could safely reopen, so Disney's announcement comes as a blow to theater owners. During the call, Chapek addressed investors who wondered if this will usher in a new video on demand strategy for movie premieres.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHAPEK: We're looking at "Mulan" as a one-off as opposed to trying to say that there's some new business windowing model that we're looking at.

DEL BARCO: Still, Chapek says it will be interesting to learn how well "Mulan" does on Disney+. He noted the streaming service's success in its recent showings of the musical "Hamilton" and Beyonce's "Black Is King" production.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REFLECTION")

LEA SALONGA: (Singing) Who is that girl I see staring... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.