Disney's Mulan Producer On How The Movie Business May Change Due To COVID

Producer Jason Reed shares his thoughts on the impact of the pandemic on the movie business.

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Disney's next big movie is Mulan, a live-action take on the 1998 animated classic. The film was initially expected to premiere in theatres earlier this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted those plans. Now, the movie will screen in some theatres and more widely through Disney Plus as a paid movie. The hybrid model for the film's release is not unprecedented, as other studios are experimenting with that, too, but Mulan is a $200 million blockbuster. As such, many will be watching to see if its unique release model proves successful.

Producer Jason Reed, a former Disney boss who now produces films through his own business, spoke with Deadline about this. He confirmed he was not directly involved with the decision to bring Mulan to Disney Plus, and it was Disney that ultimately made the call.

That being said, Reed had a lot to say on the matter and what it could mean for the future of film. These are "extraordinary times," and you shouldn't necessarily expect that the new distribution models that movie studios like Disney are trying to stick around in the long term, he said. Reed foresees a future where studios decide business models and release strategies on a per-movie basis.

"I don't think that anything that is happening during the pandemic is setting a precedent for what has to happen in the future," he said. "However, I do think that the pandemic has accelerated plans that we were already seeing. In our industry, as well as every other industries, my sense is that what we were seeing and what we’ve been seeing is a more dynamic distribution model evolving, one that tailors the distribution for the creative content as much as it does for the actual business model that's preexisting; whether that's day and date theatrical and streaming or whether it's a hybrid approach like this is going to be, where some territories are theatrical and some territories are streaming only."

All of the options will become "arrows in the quiver," Reed said. Gone are the days of rigidly defined distribution models for movies, the executive added.

"It's not going to fall back into the old model of, well, here's the windows that we have and here's the order in which we go, and here’s how long each one is if we’re going to individually sell off those windows where we have a big movie and it's going to do X, and then we're going to put it in the drive-ins and second-run theaters, and then we're going to put it out in premium, and then we're going to put it here, and then it'll run on television," Reed said. "I don't think that’s going to continue as a set-in-stone model, but what I think what we will see is exhibition and distribution having to figure out how to best optimize each unit."

Reed said a small indie film with a specific audience might elect to go with a streaming-only model, while a tentpole film might go to theatres before shifting to video-on-demand later.

"I think that everything is open, and everything is going to change," he said.

Personally, Reed said he believes movie theatres are here to stay because he thinks people get value out of watching films together in the same room. "The experience is enhanced by sitting with an audience," Reed said.

Overall, Reed said he sees a bright future for the movie business, even if the distribution models are changing.

"I don't see any reason to think that this pandemic is going to cause any long-term harm to the business, and in fact, I think there's a lot of indication that it will position the business in a much better place going forward," he said.

Mulan releases on Disney Plus this Friday, September 4. For more, check out GameSpot's explainer for how to watch it, "How To Watch Mulan On Disney Plus This Week."

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