During an earlier stage this little old global pandemic, I put the idea out there that Covid-19 could kill the cinema experience. Citing some studios choosing to put their movies out at a premium on streaming services rather than waiting for cinemas to reopen. After getting delayed three times, it looks like Disney are finally making the decision to put their live action adaption/reimagining of Mulan out on Disney +.
I knew there was going to be an extra charge to see this movie for the first time at home rather than in a cinema, but I underestimated just how much of a premium Disney would be putting on the feature. Or maybe Disney overestimated just how badly people wanted to see this movie on a service their were already paying for.
I’ll put my hands up right from the start and admit that this is not topic I have a vested interest in. Had Mulan been a movie I was hotly anticipating, then maybe I’d had different feelings about it, but I’m going to try and come at this from a neutral standpoint. During this pandemic, I’ve not stopped working. My job has proven to be vital and thus I am not struggling for media to consume, if anything I wish I had more time.
However, there are a significant amount of people out there who are still not back at work, and have not been in work for close to six months now. Among those people, I’d imagine there are varying amounts of disposable income for them to spend on things like entertainment, which is an important thing as many choose to remain isolated as much as they possibly can. So I can’t help but question the value propitiation that comes with paying to “unlock” this movie early on Disney’s streaming service.
Right now, the only charge listed for Mulan is a one-off payment of $29.99. Something that has become a point of contention online. Many questioning why they should have to pay extra on top of a service they’re already paying for. Which is a very fair argument in my eyes. Not helped much by the actual value of that particular price point in my eyes. Looking it up online, the avarage price of a movie ticket in the U.S. before lock down was about $9. While the price of a fairly new Blu-Ray copy of the live action Lion King, one of their last movies in this series, is about $15.
What exactly is the value in paying £29.99 exactly outside of desperation to see the movie. Especially here in the U.K. where we tend to get screwed by price conversions when compared to what the U.S. pays. While the straight exchange right now would be around £23, it’ll most likely be bumped up to £25. Or even a straight “match” at £29.99. Which would be $39.27 at the time I write this.
If that is what ends up happening, is any movie worth paying that amount of money? I get the impression this Disney is testing the waters to see what they can get away with in the future and see possibly continue down this route. Bob Iger insists during the announcement of this news that this would be a one-off occurrence and not something that would become the norm. However, the MCU has a pretty large slate of movies coming out over the next few years, and if they want to keep that train on the tracks then it’s an almost certainty that Black Widow will find its way to Streaming before it gets the chance to hit cinemas also.
With that being a movie I am more invested in seeing, would I pay £25-£30 to see it? I honestly don’t know. I’m honestly a pretty price conscious person in general, and even £20 would seem like a lot to access a streamed version of a movie. Even if the movie is going to be available permanently, for me to watch over and over. I’ll reiterate, I could buy a Blu-Ray of Avengers: Endgame at a supermarket for £15, and that has the added benefit of not needing internet to watch it and a bunch of special features to boot.
It’s obviously a weird time right now for a lot of people. And I’m sure far more people will pay to see this movie than I would have dared to guess, which in turn will deem the idea a success. Coming from a combination of a lot of people not really having the same value of price that I do, or are simply desperate for something new to watch, or something to simply distract the kids for a few hours. But with unemployment rising, the idea of making such a lavish expense for the sake of pure early access is strange to me. If anything, a lower price would seem like a far smarter move to me.
Price conscious people wouldn’t bat as much of an eye and Disney would get their extra money on a service they arguably shouldn’t be charging anything extra for in the first place. Then again, this might just feel like a problem to me, and the vast majority of people out in the world couldn’t care less. Which would just lead Disney to doing this on a regular occurrence at the same price point.
It makes me wonder how this will roll over and affect cinemas when they eventually reopen in a normal capacity. Maybe going to the cinema will become a purely optional, but premium service. Much in the same way seeing a movie on an IMAX screen or the ISENSE screens was before the lock down. It’ll be interesting to see just how quickly I might or might not fold when they do this with something Star Wars related, which will be the real major temptation for me to totally undermine everything I spend the last 1000 words talking about.