£23 to rent Mulan on Disney Plus is daylight robbery
When I saw the headlines that Walt Disney Pictures’ Yifei Liu-starring, live-action remake of Mulan would be released in cinemas and Disney Plus in September, I was initially excited.
It’s been a long wait, after all: the idea has officially been in development since 2015.
By March this year, the finish line was agonisingly close, and there was even an (eerily-downsized and red carpet-free) London premiere.
We all know what happened next.
Coronavirus-induced chaos has meant massive delays and a dearth of summer blockbusters – Russell Crowe’s Unhinged, the first release since cinemas reopened, hasn’t really cut the mustard – plus some impressive innovation.
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But the prospect of seeing a genuine film moment like Mulan on the big screen again felt damn near emotional.
Better yet was the option of streaming it in your own home, if you felt like it. Or, indeed, if you had to – subject to another lockdown.
However, upon learning how much Mulan would cost to access on Disney Plus, I felt sick to the stomach.
According to Variety, the film will be $29.99 (£22.89) to rent. That’s on top of the service’s monthly subscription fee: $6.99 (£5.34), which always felt too good to be true.
The UK Cinema Association has said they understand the same VOD (video on-demand) strategy is expected to be planned for the UK, calling it ‘hugely disappointing’.
That’s one way of putting it.
It’s not just cinemas that will take the hit, but consumers too.
Think of cash-strapped parents, vulnerable to pester power; graduates looking for distraction amidst diminished job prospects, and anyone facing unstable work and future/present unemployment, as the economy faces its ‘deepest recession in centuries’.
Now, some might say £23 is a reasonable price to protect a highly volatile $200million investment. I’d share this view, if I genuinely thought this was a one-off.
Rather, I suspect it’s a test: if viewers play ball, this roll-out strategy could become an industry standard.
There’s also the counterargument that £23 isn’t that bad.
If you think that, it might be because you can afford it. Many, if not most of us, can’t.
Then there’s the laughable, antiquated notion that, for £23, you can ‘keep [Mulan] forever’ to watch over and over again.
Actually, you’ll only be able to do this if you keep on subscribing.
Let’s say you rent Disney Plus for the next 50 years. That’s 600 months. Or 600 x £5.34. Or £3,204, assuming the price never goes up.
Add to that whatever the platform decides to charge for future releases – I dread to think what some would be willing to pay for any given new superhero movie, or Frozen 3 – and the figure becomes terrifying. Who owns what – or what owns who – in this scenario?
And what happens to your collection if you decide to delete your subscription one day?
Even more disturbing is the thought of all the Disney content fans have already thrown away over the years: the VHSs, the CDs, the DVDs.
(And, in 2020, I can’t be the only one deleting years-old digital music to make my laptop work faster – only to listen to the same music afresh on streamers. At least this waste of money is kinder to the environment…)
To be clear, I think there’s a lot to love and admire about Disney and Disney Plus, and want to support an industry I love while it’s in a state of flux.
But if ever there was a time for large corporations to stop exploiting consumers, it is now.
The world of entertainment is reaching a crucial watershed moment, and we need to vote with our wallets.
In Mulan’s case that means seeing it in a cinema – or perhaps not seeing it at all.
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