A Mulan ban is in effect in China. Reuters has learned that Chinese authorities have told the country’s major media outlets to deny any coverage of the Walt Disney Pictures movie. This was spurred on by the recent controversy regarding the film’s links to the Xinjiang region, a part of China where the government has been accused of participating in human rights abuses against Uighurs and other primarily Muslim minorities.
The Mulan ban is a devastating blow to Disney’s bottom line. The extravagant production cost a reported $200 million, but industry insiders have speculated it was an even more expensive endeavor. Disney needed the tentpole release to make a significant amount in China since it was not going to be released theatrically elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With this Mulan ban, the success of the film in China will undoubtedly be reduced. The remake has only brought in an estimated $7.5 million in international territories like the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and a few other smaller markets like the Czech Republic and New Zealand.
This Mulan ban is especially harmful since the blockbuster production was made with the specific intention to cater to the Chinese market. The cast is filled with recognizable and celebrated Chinese actors – Jet Li, Gong Li, Donnie Yen, and leading actress Liu Yifei – and is based on one of the most popular tales in Chinese folklore. China is the world’s second-largest movie market and Disney was counting on the majority of Mulan‘s returns to come from China.
Disney had already planned for a reduced box office take due to capacity limits being placed on theaters, but this Mulan ban is only going to hurt the film’s performance even more. It doesn’t help that the gargantuan production is receiving mixed reviews from critics – read our own scathing review here – and Chinese audiences are now going to be forcibly dissuaded from supporting the film.
Now that the Mulan ban is being enforced, it is bringing even more attention to the working relationship Hollywood studios have with China. Hollywood tentpole films have been crafting themselves with Chinese audiences in mind for the last decade, and it is now coming to a head with this report about Disney filming in areas where the Chinese government is purported to be engaged in possible genocidal acts.
Disney decided to forego a theatrical release for Mulan in the United States and sent the film straight to their streaming service, Disney+. Subscribers to the streaming service can gain access to the film by paying a premium fee of $29.99. It will available to all Disney+ subscribers starting in December. Since those returns are privately controlled, it is unclear exactly how successful this release strategy has been for the film.
If the Mulan ban is effective in China, one industry analyst has predicted that the movie will earn a very weak $22 million from that country’s theatrical market. If the Disney+ rentals have not been exceptionally high, it is certain that Mulan will be considered an immense flop for the Mouse House. Mulan opens in Chinese theaters this weekend.