Many theaters across the United States are still closed or operating at reduced capacities. The film industry is still trying to reconnect with audiences. The two biggest releases of the live-action remake of Christopher Nolans Tenet and Disney Mulan had disappointing openings. This is despite very different publication strategies. Now, the release of Wonder Woman 1984 is being pushed.
KCRW discusses all of this with Matt Belloni, KCRW contributor and former editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter.
KCRW: Mulan was released on Disney +. Do you know how well it went with the audience? Were people willing to shell out an additional $ 29.99 to watch it?
Matt Belloni: It’s a very well-kept secret because Disney hasn’t released any numbers. This was a very unique exit strategy as it was not available on Disney +, their streaming service, to repeat customers. You had to be a Disney + subscriber. And then on top of that, you had to pay $ 30 to get access to Mulan. It is therefore a fairly high bar.
And some analysts have speculated that as it fluctuates in the top 10, it was far not the number one outing last weekend, according to the Disney metric on Disney +, that it may have. be not well worked. But we don’t know because they haven’t released the numbers.
What we do know is that this movie was supposed to be a big hit in China. And part of the rationale for spending as much money as they did on this movie, over $ 200 million, was that the Chinese market was supposed to be very robust. He opened there, and it didn’t go very well. It opened on low expectations, around $ 20 million, and there are a number of reasons for that.
People speculated that there was controversy surrounding the film. Disney has publicly thanked a highly controversial regional government that was responsible for imprisoning people. And there was a lot of backlash in some of the ways the movie portrayed the characters in the market.
A theory explaining why Mulan failed in China. Mulan is a 1,000-year-old story and a revered figure of Chinese heritage, and for Westerners to make a film about the country’s national hero, they had to be wrong.
That’s true, although I would say Disney has taken some pretty extraordinary steps to try to be culturally specific. In fact, part of the reason they had a problem was that most of the film was shot in New Zealand, but they went to China to shoot specific scenes because they wanted an air of authenticity. .
They chose quite important Chinese actors in the film. They really went above and beyond to try to be culturally authentic in this market. And it didn’t go well, in part because of this controversy over where they filmed in China. They shot in a province that the Chinese government used to incarcerate an ethnic minority.
What does it mean if a movie doesn’t click in China for Hollywood these days?
This is a big deal because, depending on the movie, you can get up to $ 300 million in this market. Now it’s a little more complicated because you have to basically partner with the business in China, and you get less money from China than you would from some other markets, especially theaters in the US. United, but China is seen as a crucial market for some of those big, sprawling Hollywood blockbusters. And Disney has done very well in China with other films.
The tenant is apparently doing well abroad. But in the United States, it only opened in theaters, not New York or Los Angeles, the country’s two largest markets. How successful has he been in attracting people to theaters?
It was not great. And let’s explain some of the numbers because there’s been a lot of filming going on by Warner Bros. here. And Warner basically had a gun on Christopher Nolan’s head, who insisted on a theatrical release for this film. About 70% of theaters in America are open, and someone first had to see if people would be comfortable going back to the movies.
So Warner took Tenet out and on opening weekend he made about $ 9.4 million. Less than $ 10 million. Typically, a Chris Nolan movie would be open for around $ 50 million. And they did a few games with Canada’s outings and some of the cumulative numbers to get a little more. But overall, after two weeks, he’s still in the $ 20 million, 20-year range. Not good.
And it was really an experience for them and it failed. So what they’re doing is now pulling back on other movies that were supposed to open like Wonder Woman. .
Other studios are now looking at their own slates and determining what is the best strategy for the rest of the year. But there’s a good chance that for the next eight to ten weeks, we won’t be able to see any new full-scale studio releases.
Why don’t they release new movies on video on demand?
These big blockbusters, economics only make sense if you can hit a revenue range of $ 600 million to $ 700 million worldwide. And it’s not the same kind of economy as streaming.
Now some would say these studios should make these movies on demand to try and get more people to subscribe to some of their services. And I agree that a lot of people probably would have subscribed to the Warner HBO Max streaming service if Tennant was only available there. But it’s a big blow to take financially, to put a $ 200 million movie in an online environment where you don’t know what you’re going to make.
Does that mean that studios are now going to make films that are cheaper or not blockbusters?
It is a way of extrapolating what is happening now. I think most people assume that there will be a vaccine at some point and the appetite for movies will return to some extent. I don’t think we know exactly how big that appetite will be, and how permanent these changes towards streaming and watching home movies will be.
This will set in motion something that was already happening, that is to say the move from cinemas to home cinema. And we’re going to see fewer movies in theaters. The biggest blockbusters, yes. But the average budget and the lower budget will continue to migrate to streaming for the foreseeable future.