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Disney’s ‘Mulan’ Pushed to Late August as New COVID Cases Continue to Rise

Though new coronavirus cases are down in China and New York, critical markets for Disney’s remake, the cities have not set reopening dates for their movie theaters

As COVID-19 infections continue to rise in cities across the U.S., Disney announced that it has once again moved the release date of “Mulan,” now opening August 21, striking a major blow to the movie theater industry’s hope for a strong summer reopening.

“While the pandemic has changed our release plans for ‘Mulan’ and we will continue to be flexible as conditions require, it has not changed our belief in the power of this film and its message of hope and perseverance,” Disney Studios Co-Chairmen Alan Bergman and Alan Horn said in a statement. “Director Niki Caro and our cast and crew have created a beautiful, epic, and moving film that is everything the cinematic experience should be, and that’s where we believe it belongs – on the world stage and the big screen for audiences around the globe to enjoy together.”

The film’s release was first moved to July 24 from its original March date. This second push means that Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” is once again scheduled to be the first major studio film to be released since the pandemic started, having previously moved from July 17 to July 31 and then again this week to August 12.

Analysts and insiders told TheWrap that a date change for “Mulan” had become increasingly likely as the pandemic seemed to worsen in recent weeks. And it became a near-certainty after Disney announced on Wednesday that it was backing off plans to reopen Disneyland on July 17. Since Disney films and theme parks both rely on families, one analyst said that Disney might be worried about appearing “irresponsible” by encouraging groups with young children to buy tickets when the number of new infections continues to rise in cities, such as Los Angeles.

“I don’t know how Disney could say it’s, go to their movies but not the parks,” Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock told TheWrap. “With so many other family films like ‘Scoob!’ and ‘The Spongebob Movie’ moving, the optics are getting worse for releasing family films for theaters, especially with the pandemic getting worse.”

There has also been uncertainty over whether major markets will even have theaters open by late July. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced an indefinite delay in the reopening of movie theaters, malls, gyms and other non-essential indoor businesses in order to study how the virus can spread in those areas. In China, a critical market for “Mulan” at the overseas box office, government officials backed off of plans to reopen theaters in Beijing earlier this month, and no new plans have been announced on a timetable to reopen theaters.

The National Association of Theater Owners and major chains like AMC and Cinemark have yet to comment on Disney’s decision to move “Mulan.” For now, the first movie set to release in theaters nationwide is “Unhinged,” a thriller from newcomer studio Solstice that stars Russell Crowe and is set for a July 10 release. One week later, Warner Bros. will do a 10th-anniversary re-release of “Inception,” which will feature an introduction from director Christopher Nolan and sneak peek footage of “Tenet.” Nolan has been publicly adamant about using “Tenet” to help movie theaters recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and signs point to Warner moving forward with its release as TV spots promoting the film have begun appearing.