Disney has delayed the theatrical release of “Mulan” for a third time, all but officially putting an end to Hollywood’s hopes of salvaging a summer movie season.
The studio’s live-action remake was slated to debuted in theaters on July 24. Instead, “Mulan” will hit the big screen on Aug. 21.
“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,” said Disney’s co-chairman and chief creative officer Alan Horn and co-chairman Alan Bergman. “Director Niki Caro and our cast and crew have created a beautiful, epic, and moving film that is everything the cinematic experience should be, and that’s where we believe it belongs — on the world stage and the big screen for audiences around the globe to enjoy together.”
The move comes after news that Warner Bros. postponed the release of “Tenet,” a sci-fi epic from director Christopher Nolan, for a second time. That film — starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson — is now expected to debut on Aug. 12.
With “Tenet’s” vacancy from release calendars, “Mulan” was positioned to be the first major film to reignite moviegoing in North America. While Nolan, a preeminent supporter of movie theaters, had planned to usher audiences back to cinemas with “Tenet,” industry insiders suggest that Disney didn’t want “Mulan” to be the test case for new movies amid the pandemic.
Movie theaters across the country, and the world, have been closed for most of 2020 to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Major cinema chains in the U.S., such as AMC, Regal and Cinemark, have been aiming to resume business in July. When they do open, it’s unclear how eager patrons will be to return to the movies.
“Mulan,” which cost $200 million to make, is expected to strongly resonate in China. But Chinese movie theaters are all currently closed, without a known reopening date. Given the importance of “Mulan” in China, it would have been risky to release the movie and leave Chinese audiences behind.
Two smaller movies — Russell Crowe’s thriller “Unhinged” from Solstice Studios and Sony’s romantic comedy “The Broken Hearts Gallery” — are scheduled to launch in theaters in July. They will be the first films to open since the multiplexes started to shutter in the middle of March due to public health concerns.
This is the third time Disney has delayed “Mulan,” which was directed by Niki Caro and stars Liu Yifei. It was originally set to open on March 27, but was pulled two weeks before as coronavirus began to spread in North America. The studio moved the film to the end of July, but some found that to be an optimistic delay since there was no guarantee that cinemas would be able to reopen to a significant degree by then.
Disney has moved around a slew of upcoming titles in the past few months, including “The Eternals,” “Jungle Cruise” and “Indiana Jones 5.” Since production has been halted worldwide for months due to the global health crisis, some of those films would not have been ready to debut in theaters by their target release dates.
Like the 1998 animated version, “Mulan” follows a warrior who disguises herself as a man to spare her elderly father from having to serve in the military. It’s the first of Disney’s live-action remakes to be rated PG-13, due to sequences of violence.