Mulan is set to premiere on Disney Plus on September 4th, and it comes with a hefty price tag of $30. In reality, for non-Disney Plus subscribers who want to watch the studio’s live-action adaptation of Mulan, it’s actually going to cost $37.
A new trailer for Mulan clears up any confusion around the cost of watching the film, mainly that in order for people to watch the movie, they have to be active Disney Plus subscribers. Mulan will belong to Disney Plus’ “Premier Access” shelf — a new rental platform that acts as an iTunes or Amazon movie store within Disney’s own streaming service. For current subscribers, Mulan will cost $29.99. For non-subscribers, a Disney Plus subscription purchase ($6.99 per month) is necessary on top of the $29.99 fee for the film itself.
But keeping the film also requires an active Disney Plus membership, which means spending $7 a month in perpetuity. If you cancel your subscription, Mulan disappears with it. Mulan doesn’t carry over to other video services through Movies Anywhere, which is a departure from how Disney usually treats video purchases. That means much less flexibility for the customer. If you cancel your subscription but reactivate Disney Plus later (in time for a new season of The Mandalorian or WandaVision), Mulan should be in your library, but The Verge has reached out to Disney for confirmation.
In some ways, the subscription requisite for Mulan seems like an obvious attempt to lower Disney Plus churn. Churn, which refers to subscribers canceling their plans, is something that all streaming platforms have to deal with, and the best way to combat people leaving is having a consistent river of new content. Netflix, for example, sees churn as an inevitable part of its business, but there’s consistent content. Disney lacks that frequent flow of new entertainment, and the churn rate is noticeable. New data from analytical firm Antenna found that people who signed up for Disney Plus specifically for Hamilton were “1.5 times as likely to cancel Disney Plus within the first month compared to other subscribers.”
By charging $37 to new subscribers for Mulan, are those people more likely to stay subscribed because they’ve invested in owning the title digitally? It’s a lesson that Disney executives are looking to find out. CEO Bob Chapek spoke about Disney’s new launch model for Mulan in an earnings call, and he stressed that Disney’s team is specifically interested to “see what happens” both in terms of subscriber growth and how many people purchase the film.
It’s an interesting moment for Disney to test the idea. Mulan is set for release in September, and it will be immediately followed by The Mandalorian’s second season in October. It’s unclear if Disney will use its Premier Access shelf for Black Widow, due out on November 6th, but Marvel Studios’ WandaVision is still reportedly coming in December. That’s a series of hotly anticipated titles that people might stick around for after signing up to watch Mulan.
What’s clear is that Mulan is one of the most expensive premium-on-demand titles so far. Trolls World Tour, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Onward, and Scoob! all went for $20 — though they came with stricter viewing limits. If Mulan is successful on Disney Plus (especially in North America and Europe, compared to China where the film will release theatrically), it could prompt a strategic shift for Disney in the future instead of being a one-time event.