Altogether, it makes for one more slight suffered by what once appeared to be a global box office juggernaut for Disney. Originally slated to open at the end of March 2020, Mulan was among the first major blockbusters to be delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, first to late July and then to Disney+ on Sept. 4. Yet while the actual numbers from Disney’s PVOD release of Mulan via the company’s streaming service remain a mystery, the $30 priced purchase, like the belated theatrical release of the film in China where COVID-19 is still affecting moviegoing, has apparently failed to generate the kind of grosses and pop culture penetration Disney normally expects. Indeed, the studio frequently dubs their big tentpoles to be “events,” and not mere movie openings, yet Mulan’s entire rollout seems muted.
When coupled with the recent fact a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers have sent a letter to Disney CEO Bob Chapek demanding to know just what exactly are Disney’s ties to the local government of the Chinese Xinjiang province—an area of the country where the Chinese government has been detaining Uighurs and other Muslims in what is recognized by the international community as human rights crimes, including the U.S.—it creates a cloud of disappointment and increasing controversy around the movie.
While Warners’ Tenet didn’t suffer quite as grim a development as U.S. senators suggesting one of their film productions was cozying up to a government committing human rights atrocities, Tenet has still failed to jumpstart theatrical moviegoing in the U.S. in the way director Christopher Nolan intended. During its second weekend at the North American box office, Tenet grossed only an estimated $6.7 million. This makes for a whopping 66.8 percent drop from its already soft $20.2 million reported gross during Labor Day weekend.
Ironically, Warners may have worsened the perception by allegedly inflating the opening weekend numbers during its Labor Day rollout. While the official studio number is $20.2 million over the course of four days, in truth that North American total included previews throughout that week in the U.S., as well as more than a week of box office grosses in Canada. When those numbers are removed, Tenet likely grossed somewhere between $10 million and $12 million during its first real opening weekend in the U.S. While that’s an even more anemic number than $20.2 million, it suggests the film really dropped less than 50 percent, and possibly as low as under 40 percent.
Granted with such small grosses, a much healthier drop is still disappointing news, and yet it still suggests the film’s word-of-mouth from those comfortable enough with returning to movie theaters is not nearly so poor as the 67 percent drop implies.