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The movie industry has had a tough time recently with constant film release delays, movie theater shutdowns, and movie sets now requiring drastic social distancing measures.
At the start of the pandemic in March, major movie studios like Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, and more all began to push back the dates of their upcoming films. For example, Disney’s Mulan was to be released in theaters on March 9, however the film was taken off the schedule and was said to be let out at a later date.
It wasn’t until August when rumors started going around, reporting that Disney was planning on releasing Mulan on Disney Plus for an added fee on top of the $6.99 membership fee.
Mulan was released on Disney Plus on September 4 as a “premiere access” title. Subscribers could spend an additional $30 to own the film on their account, or wait 3 months until December 4 to watch the film for free.
Mulan, releasing strictly on Disney Plus, made $35.5 million on its opening weekend. Since the film wasn’t released in theaters, that $35.5 million is strictly net profit for Disney since it didn’t have to pay distribution fees for hosting it on their site.
In September, movie theaters rushed to get back open after being closed for six months. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet released on September 3rd in 70 percent of US theaters, making only $9.5 million in its first weekend, according to Indie Wire.
Another major reason for its diminished return is due to a majority of theaters capping off at a 50 percent capacity.
With the coronavirus pandemic still in full effect as the U.S approximates around 70,000 new cases per day, according to the New York Times, it is likely that movies will either continue to be pushed back or move to streaming services.
Despite theaters reopening and providing new feature film titles for viewers, people are still weary of returning to places that mass amounts of people gather at.
The Walt Disney Company is one of the many major motion picture studios to come out with their streaming service, with a majority of their focus going toward Disney Plus since their other major income networks — theme parks, merchandise, and big budget blockbuster theater releases — have been closed down temporarily.
“We are tilting the scale pretty dramatically [toward streaming],” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said, in an earnings call with investors. “I would not characterize it as a response to Covid.”
Time is of the essence on set and with strict social distancing practices put into place, these kinds of productions become nearly impossible to achieve, resulting in higher production costs and longer shooting days.
COVID-19 safety costs on film sets are approximately ten percent of an average $100 million dollar production budget, a report from Variety shows.