Disney’s decision to release its remake of Mulan on its streaming platform has been heavily criticized by the body representing British cinemas.
The live-action reboot was slated to hit theaters, but the company has now said it will be put on Disney + in the US.
The UK Cinema Association said it understands the same will happen in the UK, which is “extremely disappointing”.
Chief Executive Phil Clapp said, “For many this will feel like a step back rather than forward.”
Cinemas have been reopening in the UK since July, but they face a battle to try and get fans back. Most of the new versions have been delayed or released online.
Clapp said: “With cinemas across the UK continuing to reopen and welcome their customers, Walt Disney Studios’ decision yesterday to put Mulan on their Disney + service and not in cinemas will be seen by many as extremely disappointing and mystified. “.
On Tuesday, Disney confirmed that the film will be available online in the US for $ 29.99 (£ 23) from 4 September.
Chief Executive Bob Chapek said the cost will vary in other countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Western Europe. But Disney hasn’t confirmed its plans for the UK.
Clapp said: “Rather than playing a fantastic new family movie in the best possible place to see it, at the cinema, audiences are instead encouraged to stay at home and pay a premium price to watch it.”
Mulan, which cost around $ 200 million (£ 152 million), will be released in theaters in countries that currently don’t have the Disney + platform, such as China, and where cinemas are back in business, the company head added.
The film was scheduled for release in March, but has been postponed several times.
Chapek called the move to Disney + “one-time,” but said the pandemic forced the company to explore other revenue streams.
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Although around 40% of British cinemas reopened, many audiences did not return. Last weekend’s box office receipts were only 3% of the total for the same weekend last year.
Commentators have suggested that Mulan’s move could prove to be a turning point in the battle between theatrical release and streaming.
The Guardian described it as “seismic,” Empire magazine said it was “potentially devastating news for theater chains and us, the viewing public,” and The Telegraph accused Disney of “behaving as if it wanted our cinemas die “.
On Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter cited a letter from Disney to UK film operators, in which the company apologized that the decision “was not taken lightly”.
He also reported a separate letter sent by Mr Clapp to members of the UK Cinema Association in which he called the company’s move “frankly disconcerting”.
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