Disney’s Mulan topped the Vudu chart and Paramount’s Love and Monsters led the FandangoNow chart the week ended Oct. 18.
Both are transactional video-on-demand services owned by Fandango.
Mulan, the live-action remake of the Disney animated classic, became available for $29.99 premium purchase at the services Oct. 6. The title had previously been exclusively available via Disney+. It came in at No. 2 on the FandangoNow chart.
Love and Monsters, available via premium VOD and digital purchase Oct. 16, takes place seven years after a “monsterpocalypse” — giant monsters taking over the Earth’s surface — forces all of humanity to move into underground colonies. It came in at No. 2 on the Vudu chart.
The horror thriller Spell will be released on PVOD and digital Oct. 30, in time for Halloween, from Paramount Home Entertainment.
The film will also be released in select theaters.
Omari Hardwick (“Power,” Sorry to Bother You), Loretta Devine (“Black-ish,” Crash) and John Beasley (The Sum of All Fears, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) star.
In the film, while flying to his father’s funeral in rural Appalachia, an intense storm causes Marquis (Hardwick) to lose control of the plane carrying him and his family. He awakens wounded, alone and trapped in Ms. Eloise’s (Devine) attic, who claims she can nurse him back to health with the Boogity, a Hoodoo figure she has made from his blood and skin. Unable to call for help, Marquis desperately tries to outwit and break free from her dark magic and save his family from a sinister ritual before the rise of the blood moon.
The frightening thriller Antebellum from Lionsgate and QC Entertainment — the producer of Get Out and Us — was fittingly inspired by a bad dream.
Filmmakers Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz trace the origins of the film to a nightmare Bush had. “This nightmare was about a woman named Eden,” Bush recalls. “The experience was horrific and so real that I immediately wanted to talk about it with Chris. It felt like my ancestors had visited me to tell me the story. We thought it had the makings of an exciting short story and film.”
Through Eden (Janelle Monáe), Antebellum — which became available through premium VOD Sept. 18 — explores a nightmare from which America seems unable to awake: the country’s original sin of slavery.
The story centers on Veronica (also played by Monáe), a Ph.D. sociologist and best-selling author whose books explore the disenfranchisement of Black people in the United States. Veronica travels to New Orleans for a speaking engagement and uncovers a horrific secret that connects her to the enslaved Eden.
“I felt like I know, love and respect so many women who reminded me of Veronica — powerful, community-serving, strong-willed women who refuse to have their voices silenced as they represent those who are marginalized,” Monáe says. “I wanted to take on a character that could make us feel proud, especially in today’s climate.”
As a speaker and writer, Veronica’s voice takes on a symbolic power.
“The concept of silencing Black people is pure horror,” Monáe explains. “Chris and Gerard leaned into the framework of a psychological thriller to depict these horrors.”
As in any horror tale, there are villains on the plantation where Eden is enslaved — played by Jack Huston, Eric Lange and Jena Malone (“Hunger Games” franchise).
“The way that Chris and Gerard move between these two worlds is not only clever, but necessary to tell the story,” Malone says. “They pull the rug out from under you so you can view these really intense things in a new way.”
A world away from Eden’s plantation life, and before embarking upon her own harrowing journey, Veronica meets up with two friends, Dawn (Gabourey Sidibe) and Sarah (Lily Cowles), for a night on the town in New Orleans. Sidibe (Academy Award nominee, Precious) describes Dawn as “affluent and filled with black girl magic.” Her character lends a levity to the proceedings, but the frivolity of the trio’s night out is interrupted by moments of tension that create an ominous mood.
“There’s a repeated micro-aggression that’s aimed at Veronica and Dawn — the two women of color — that Sarah is aware of but perhaps doesn’t completely understand,” Cowles says.
Throughout the production is the ominous feeling that history is encroaching on the present — made all the more potent by the fact that scenes were filmed on a real plantation, the Evergreen Plantation, located on the Mississippi River, about 40 miles northwest of New Orleans.
“We actually wanted and had committed to finding and identifying a real plantation, and honoring the ancestors,” Renz points out. “As soon as we arrived at Evergreen for a location scout, we knew we had to film there. The ghosts of enslaved people are stained on the trees and on the blades of grass. It’s in the air and soaked into the wood of those cabins. You can feel that energy; it’s palpable.”
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” reads the William Faulkner quote that begins the film.
While Antebellum was meant to be a mind-bending mystery that unfolds as a metaphor for the current climate of racism, the filmmakers did not anticipate how the sins of the past would jump to the fore again in the current political climate.
“When we conceived Antebellum, we did not — could not — envision the way that systemic racism would break through to force the meaningful conversation we desperately need. But it has,” says Bush. “What we did intend was for the film to force the audience to look at the real-life horror of racism through the lens of film horror. We’re landing in the middle of the very conversations that we hoped Antebellum would spur. So to release the film in this environment is all we could ask for — as artists, we’re grateful to have the opportunity to add our voices in this cultural moment.”
With Disney’s inaugural premium VOD launch of the live-action remake Mulan set for Sept. 4, the movie reportedly could be available for free to Disney+ subscribers three months later on Dec. 4.
The later release date was observed on a screen shot for the movie’s $29.99 Premium Access purchase price in the United States on the Disney+ app and first reported by ScreenRant. The December date has subsequently been removed from the purchase link. Scuttlebutt has long suggested Mulan would not be available for free (with a Disney+ subscription) until 2021.
Disney earlier in August announced the controversial decision to forgo a theatrical debut for Mulan after repeated exhibitor re-opening delays prevented the $200 million budget movie from releasing. The title was initially slated to debut in theaters on March 27, then pushed back to July and again to this month before being removed from the release schedule. The movie will still have a theatrical presence in markets without Disney+ access.
While studios such as Universal Pictures have embraced PVOD and transactional VOD in response to the pandemic, Disney has steadfastly supported the 90-day theatrical window underscored by the studio’s global box dominance in recent years through Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm (Star Wars) and Pixar Animation titles.
The upcoming Sept. 4 premium VOD debut of much-delayed live-actioner Mulan is Disney’s first foray bypassing theatrical distribution for direct-to-consumer access. The movie, with a reported production/marketing budgets around $200 million and $100 million, respectively, is the most-expensive direct-to-consumer release ever.
In the U.S., Disney+ subscribers will be able to buy the movie from $29.99. Subs who access Disney+ via Apple, Google Play or Roku will be able to purchase the movie on those platforms as well. The price is 50% higher than the typical PVOD release.
Outside the U.S., Mulan costs £19.99 ($26.42) in the United Kingdom; €21.99 ($26) in Spain and Italy; $34.99 ($25.32) in Australia and $39.99 ($28.94) in New Zealand.
In France, Disney+ subs can watch Mulan for free — at an unspecified later date. Disney is making the movie available theatrically in select foreign markets without Disney+ and with re-opened cinemas.
Disney released the first Mulan in 1998 as an animated theatrical feature film, grossing $304 million worldwide. A direct-to-video sequel, Mulan II, was released in 2004. The new live-action movie is based on “The Ballad of Mulan,” about a young girl (Yifei Liu) who masquerades as a man to take her sick father’s place in the Imperial Army. It’s a story of a young woman who must test her inner fortitude to rise to the challenges of a warrior.
If Mulan proves a success with consumers and theaters remain off-putting, Disney could follow up offering Marvel’s Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson, and Marvel’s WandaVision in November and December, respectively, on Premium Access.
The pandemic has opened a door to breaking the theatrical window.
Research firm Ampere modeled various fictional scenarios of windowing during the pandemic, comparing the income post-COVID 19 to the income a title would have expected to have generated pre-2020.
“In a pre-COVID world, many of the scenarios would have offered only marginal gains (with significant risks) compared to a traditional release strategy,” according to Ampere. “However, in post-COVID markets, these options have started to look like viable opportunities.”
To assess the viability of a selection of alternative approaches, Ampere created a fictional mid-tier movie and modeled a series of windowing scenarios based on market trends, designing four scenarios of new windowing practices studios may adopt:
Scenario 1: Replace the first window theatrical distribution with premium video-on-demand (PVOD).
Scenario 2: Adopt strategies of using PVOD and theatrical windows sequentially, similar to Universal’s recent deal with AMC.
Scenario 3: Replace traditional windowing with a pure direct-to-consumer offering.
Scenario 4: Release films theatrically before making titles available exclusively on their own direct-to-consumer services.
The firm found the Universal deal with AMC (Scenario 2) was the most viable model for mid-tier releases. In Scenario 2, Ampere found that an accelerated PVOD window, such as the deal between Universal and AMC, is the most stable for exhibitors and studio groups, offering comparable returns for cinemas and increased revenue for the studio on mid- and lower-tier releases. However, top-tier titles are likely to be better monetized via traditional windowing models. The presence of theatrical releases still offers consumers the opportunity to view the movie with a cinema experience, meaning that this model doesn’t risk ‘lost’ transactions — unlike some of the other scenarios Ampere explored. The success of the model depends on negotiations with exhibitors and retailers, Ampere noted. Before agreeing to an earlier window, exhibitors will want to ensure that the mid-term future of the theatrical business is not being eroded to the extent that it will sideline them in future periods. Studios will need to work with digital retailers to ensure that films are adequately signposted as premium releases and are not unfavorably compared to catalogues of cheaper rentals, according to Ampere.
There is a significant appetite for home rental and purchase, with the domestic U.S. transactional video market at roughly 40% of theatrical’s size, according to Ampere. In principle, some titles could earn comparable amounts from PVOD as from theatrical distribution. However, for high-end blockbuster titles, which are typically able to obtain greater cuts of box office revenue, and international releases (in markets where the digital rental and retail market is less well developed), a pure PVOD approach would be far more risky. To account for this, split models would be more appropriate, with strategies tailored according to local importance of a title and the appetite for home rental and retail, according to Ampere.
Ampere’s research revealed that a theatrical to direct-to-consumer model is likely to be more feasible than a pure D2C model (bypassing theatrical entirely). However, both approaches are dependent on numerous influencing factors. Whether the model suits any given title is contingent on the retention of any new subscribers who signed up to watch the movie, and therefore the strategy is reliant on keeping both wider catalogue costs, and subscriber churn rates, down, according to Ampere.
“Looking forward, Ampere believes some of the major studios will adopt split strategies that can utilize PVOD while maintaining the benefits of theatrical distribution,” said Ampere analyst Peter Ingram in a statement. “Most of the studios have been experimenting with strategies during lockdown that completely eschew the theatrical window. However, despite the change we are expecting to the cinema market, theatrical remains one of the best revenue streams for titles throughout their life cycle. Not only do most people see the film in its theatrical window, but tickets are charged on an individual basis. By comparison, when a film is bought via PVOD, or watched via an SVOD service, it can be shared with friends and family under a single transaction.”
The Walt Disney Co. is a longtime champion of preserving the traditional theatrical window, eschewing industry efforts to push premium VOD in the home for new release movies.
As a result, the company’s decision to offer the live-action remake Mulan directly to consumers on Sept. 4 for $29.99 is a one-time bet requiring maximum distribution.
To that end, Disney will sell “premium access” to Mulan to Disney+ subscribers via Google Play, Apple and Roku. The move is significant considering that when CEO Bob Chapek first announced direct-to-consumer access to Mulan on the the company’s fiscal call, it was through Disney+ exclusively. Now Disney will share Mulan revenue with Apple, Roku and Google.
The move suggests Disney might be having difficulty convincing Disney+ subs to directly purchase the film on its app.
“Starting Sept. 4, with Premier Access, you can watch Mulan before it’s available to all Disney+ subscribers,” Disney said in its FAQ section. “Disney+ will offer Premier Access to Mulan for $29.99 on DisneyPlus.com and select platforms, including Apple, Google and Roku. Once you have Premier Access to Mulan, you can watch as many times as you want on any platform where Disney+ is available. Your access to Mulan will continue as long as you are an active Disney+ subscriber.”
The movie thus far is not available through Amazon Fire TV, Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox, despite the platforms affording access to the Disney+ app.
Paramount Pictures will release Love and Monsters via premium VOD Oct. 16.
It will be available on VOD platforms for a 48-hour rental period at $19.99. The film will also be available for early digital purchase at $24.99.
“Given the demand for new, high-quality entertainment right now, Paramount has decided to release Love and Monsters widely on digital platforms,” said Andrew Gumpert, chief operating officer, Paramount Pictures. “While we eagerly look forward to the reopening of movie theaters, we wanted to make this original and imaginative film available for everyone to enjoy at home.”
The film takes place seven years after a “monsterpocalypse” — giant monsters taking over the Earth’s surface — forces all of humanity to move into underground colonies. As Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien, Maze Runner, “Teen Wolf”) watches his fellow survivors pair off, he decides to brave the surface and face the monsters standing between himself and his high school sweetheart Aimee (Jessica Henwick, “Iron Fist,” “Game of Thrones”). Along his dangerous journey, Joel makes unlikely friends, including a heroic dog and a pair of survivalists (Michael Rooker, Guardians of the Galaxy; Ariana Greenblatt, The One And Only Ivan, Avengers: Infinity War) who help him survive the monster-infested road to true love.
Paramount Pictures is releasing the film in association with eOne.
Drama; $19.99 VOD; Rated ‘PG’ for language and an injury image. Stars Katie Holmes, Josh Lucas, Celia Weston, Jerry O’Connell, Sarah Hoffmeister, Aidan Pierce Brennan, Chloe Lee.
A timely feel-good movie for these uncertain times, director Andy Tennant’s romantic take on the self-actualization best-seller by Rhonda Byrne, The Secret: Dare to Dream stars Katie Holmes as a widowed single mother who is burdened by debt and lives in a crumbling house with her three young kids. Enter Josh Lucas’ enigmatic character, Bray, who literally collides with Holmes’ Miranda and proceeds to fix her car bumper and her roof, rousing a modicum of suspicion and jealousy from her fiancé, Tucker (Jerry O’Connell).
Bray also offers sage words of advice to Miranda and her children, which prompts one of them to ask, “Are you sure you’re not from California?” Miranda, skeptical at first, later concedes to his positive thinking philosophy when she says to him: “I think we collided for a reason.”
Byrne’s book and documentary The Secret delves into the new age belief in the Laws of Attraction: That is, think positively, and positive things will come to you.
As Byrne says: “Joy attracts more joy. Happiness attracts more happiness. Peace attracts more peace. Gratitude attracts more gratitude. Kindness attracts more kindness. Love attracts more love. Your job is an inside one. To change your world, all you have to do is change the way you feel inside. How easy is that?”
The movie expands this concept into a story of family, of hope and the notion that if you wish hard enough, you may just get the proverbial pony you’ve always wanted.
The Secret: Dare to Dream, based on the 2006 best-selling book The Secret, will be released on premium VOD July 31 by Lionsgate.
The film, originally slated for an April 17 theatrical release, will be available to rent at $19.99 for 48 hours.
Starring Katie Holmes, Josh Lucas, Jerry O’Connell and Celia Weston and directed by Andy Tennant, The Secret: Dare to Dream follows Miranda (Holmes), a young widow trying to make ends meet while raising her three children and dating her boyfriend (O’Connell). A devastating storm brings an enormous challenge and a mysterious man, Bray (Lucas), into Miranda’s life. Bray reignites the family’s spirit but, unbeknownst to Miranda, also holds an important secret — one that will change everything.
The 2006 book by Rhonda Byrne, a global phenomenon that empowered millions to lead happier and more fulfilled lives, has sold more than 34 million copies worldwide, has been translated into 50 languages and appeared on The New York Times bestseller list for 190 weeks.