Disney’s ‘Mulan’ remake faces an ‘unprecedented’ situation at the box office because of the Wuhan coronavirus

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“Mulan”
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Disney
  • Disney’s live-action “Mulan” remake hits theaters in the US next month, but a China release date had not been set before nearly all of China’s 70,000 movie theaters closed in response to the Wuhan coronavirus.
  • China’s theatrical industry is the second largest in the world behind the US, and “Mulan” was expected to be a box-office hit there despite past controversies surrounding potential inaccuracies in the movie.
  • Disney live-action remakes, for the most part, have not been box-office sensations in China, potentially because they lack cultural relevance there, Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore senior media analyst, said. “Mulan” doesn’t have this issue.
  • Even so, Dergarabedian called the situation in China “unprecedented,” as it could be difficult for the movie to rebound even if it eventually opens in the region.
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Disney’s live-action “Mulan” remake hits theaters on March 27 in the US and other territories, but one place it likely won’t be coming to soon is China.

The country’s 70,000 theaters have closed in response to the Wuhan coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,100 people and infected more than 45,000. The closures have already cost China’s movie business over $1 billion in a three-week span.

China has the second-largest theatrical industry in the world behind the US. Hollywood movie studios often rely on Chinese audiences to boost a potential blockbuster’s global box office and “Mulan” is no exception.

In its long-range forecast last month, Boxoffice.com projected “Mulan” to earn between $40 million and $60 million in its opening weekend in the US, a modest sum considering it cost $200 million to make. But the movie was expected to be a hit in China despite past criticisms regarding historical inaccuracies after the first trailer dropped in July.

However, China did not confirm a release date before the theater closures and it’s uncertain when the movie could finally make its way there. Disney did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore senior media analyst, called the situation “unprecedented” and that the movie’s postponement in China “will, at least in the short term, have an unavoidable negative impact on the film’s overall global performance.”

“The longer this tragic situation continues, the greater the impact will be on all of the studios, their movies, and indeed all of the arts in China,” he said. “Of course, there will still be a natural hesitation to avoid public spaces even when the situation is contained, so release dates for the 2020 overall movie slate in China could change dramatically.”

Disney’s recent live-action remakes, for the most part, have not been box-office sensations in China. Dergarabedian said it could be attributed to a lack of cultural relevance or exposure to the original movies, similar to Disney’s “Star Wars” entries, which have underperformed in China. “Mulan” was expected to be an exception.

Below is how much money recent Disney live-action remakes have made in China, according to Comscore:

  • 2019: “The Lion King” – $122 million ($1.6 billion worldwide)
  • 2019: “Aladdin” – $54.6 million ($1.05 billion worldwide)
  • 2019: “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” – $47 million ($491 million worldwide)
  • 2019: “Dumbo” – $21.7 million ($353 million worldwide)
  • 2017: “Beauty and the Beast” – $84 million ($1.26 billion worldwide)
  • 2016: “The Jungle Book” – $148 million ($967 million worldwide)
  • 2016: “Alice Through the Looking Glass” – $58 million ($300 million worldwide)