The coronavirus outbreak has wrought havoc on Disney’s bottom line, particularly in China. The Magic Kingdom is estimated to be losing a combined $280 million per quarter due to the closures of its Shanghai and Hong Kong theme parks. Now, its live-action Mulan remake may be pulled from the Middle Kingdom as the country’s 70,000 movie theaters largely remain closed.
While a delay of its Chinese premiere date (March 27) was expected, The Independent is now reporting that a complete removal from the release schedule is possible. Disney president of production Sean Bailey said the company is “looking at [the situation] day by day.” With a reported $200 million budget, Mulan marks Disney’s most expensive live-action remake. Losing China, the second biggest box office region in the world ($9.2 billion in 2019), hurts no matter how you slice it.
Hollywood films with predominantly Asian casts such as Crazy Rich Asians ($1.65 million) and The Farewell ($600,000) have generally not fared well in China, where a host of homegrown blockbusters have made Asian casts the norm. Disney’s recent re-imaginings of animated classics have also not caught on in China to the degree that they have here in North America; 2017’s Beauty and the Beast totaled $84 million while last year’s Aladdin collected jut $54 million. The Lion King, however, posted a solid $120 million.
Yet while Disney is well aware of the region’s box office history, no one would have been surprised if Mulan (which was tested with Chinese audiences) threatened the $100 million mark. The Chinese market represents a massive potential upside for every blockbuster, and eliminating it from the financial equation has a ripple effect on a film’s prospects.
Without the Middle Kingdom, more pressure is put on Mulan‘s domestic box office performance. Fortunately, Disney has a far better track record in this lane. Alice in Wonderland ($334 million), The Jungle Book ($364 million), Beauty and the Beast ($504 million), Aladdin ($355 million) and The Lion King ($544 million) have all erupted at North American cinemas. Mulan will need to follow suit to appease Disney’s concerns.
The global box office could see losses that approach $4 billion by the end of March, per Deadline. There are further concerns from theatrical studios that the pandemic will drive increased interest into at-home entertainment options such as Netflix and Disney+.
Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has now killed more than 2,800 people around the world, and more than 82,000 people have been infected.