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  1. Scarlett Johansson sues Disney, says Disney+ release of Black Widow broke contract Lawsuit: Marvel star was promised exclusive theatrical release and cut of ticket sales. Enlarge / A billboard above the El Capitan Entertainment Centre promoting Marvel Studios' Black Widow on June 22, 2021, in Hollywood, California. Getty Images | AaronP/Bauer-Griffin Scarlett Johansson sued the Walt Disney Company yesterday, alleging that it breached her contract by releasing Black Widow on Disney+ the same day it was released in theaters. The simultaneous release allowed Disney to pay Johansson less money because she and the Disney-owned Marvel agreed that her compensation for Black Widow "would be based largely on 'box office' receipts generated by the picture," according to Johansson's complaint filed in Los Angeles County's Superior Court for the State of California. This was a contract violation because Johansson secured a promise from Marvel that the movie would initially be released in theaters only, the lawsuit said: To maximize these receipts, and thereby protect her financial interests, Ms. Johansson extracted a promise from Marvel that the release of the picture would be a "theatrical release." As Ms. Johansson, Disney, Marvel, and most everyone else in Hollywood knows, a "theatrical release" is a release that is exclusive to movie theaters. Disney was well aware of this promise, but nonetheless directed Marvel to violate its pledge and instead release the picture on the Disney+ streaming service the very same day it was released in movie theaters. The reasons for this were twofold. First, Disney wanted to lure the picture's audience away from movie theaters and towards its owned streaming service, where it could keep the revenues for itself while simultaneously growing the Disney+ subscriber base, a proven way to boost Disney's stock price. Second, Disney wanted to substantially devalue Ms. Johansson's agreement and thereby enrich itself. In the months leading up to this lawsuit, Ms. Johansson gave Disney and Marvel every opportunity to right their wrong and make good on Marvel's promise. Unlike numerous other movie studios, however—including Warner Brothers who, on information and belief, settled with its talent on films such as Wonder Woman after it released those films "day-and-date" to its streaming service HBO Max last year—Disney and Marvel largely ignored Ms. Johansson, essentially forcing her to file this action. The lawsuit accuses Disney of intentional interference with contractual relations and inducing breach of contract, alleging that the contract breach "was the direct result of Disney directing Marvel to ignore Ms. Johansson's agreement and/or overruling Marvel's wishes to comply with it." Johansson demanded a jury trial and asked the court for monetary and punitive damages in amounts to be proven at trial. Johansson's lawsuit could be just the first of its type against Disney, as actress "Emma Stone is reportedly considering suing Disney over the release of Cruella on Disney+," according to Screen Rant. Disney accuses Johansson of “callous disregard” for pandemic Disney responded to the lawsuit with a statement to Deadline and other media outlets, saying, "There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson's contract and furthermore, the release of Black Widow on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20 million she has received to date." Despite Disney's claim that the online release gave Johansson "additional compensation," one "person familiar with details of her contract" told The Wall Street Journal that Disney's "decision to put the movie on Disney+ is projected to cost Ms. Johansson more than $50 million." In response to Disney's statement, Johansson's agent, Bryan Lourd, said the company "shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn't." Defining “wide theatrical release” The case may come down to how the phrase "wide theatrical release" is defined. The contract clause cited by Johansson doesn't explicitly state that the film could not be released online and in theaters—it says, "if Producer in its sole discretion determines to release the Picture, then such release shall be a wide theatrical release of the Picture (i.e., no less than 1,500 screens)." Johansson's lawsuit said that the commonly accepted definition of "wide theatrical release" means that the film was required to run exclusively in theaters for three to four months. "Ms. Johansson obtained from Marvel a valuable contractual promise that the release of the picture would be a 'wide theatrical release,'" Johansson's lawsuit said. "Both parties, as well as Disney, understood this meant that the picture would initially be released exclusively in movie theaters, and that it would remain exclusively in movie theaters for a period of between approximately 90 and 120 days. This roughly 90-120 day theatrical 'window' was not only industry-standard at the time the agreement was finalized but also standard practice for prior Marvel movies distributed by Disney, including those starring Ms. Johansson." Johansson's contract gave her "certain fixed compensation" plus "deferred compensation and bonuses directly tied to the amount of worldwide box office receipts," the lawsuit said. Previous films were theater-only for months In the months leading up to the November 2019 launch of Disney+, "Johansson's representatives sought assurances that Marvel would hold up its end of the bargain with respect to the theatrical release" of Black Widow, the lawsuit said. Marvel's chief counsel replied in May 2019, "We totally understand that Scarlett's willingness to do the film and her whole deal is based on the premise that the film would be widely theatrically released like our other pictures. We understand that should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with you and come to an understanding as the deal is based on a series of (very large) box office bonuses." Marvel's statement that the Black Widow theatrical release would be "like our other pictures" is a reference to the "standard Marvel/MCU 90-120 days of theatrical exclusivity," the lawsuit said. "At the time the agreement was entered, it was well understood by the parties and Disney that a 'theatrical release' referred to an exclusive release in theaters for an extended period of time that was roughly 90-120 days," the complaint said. Marvel Studios' previous films "had uninterrupted theatrical windows between 82 and 159 days," and all seven of Johansson's previous Marvel movies had theatrical windows of at least 96 days, the lawsuit said. None of the previous Marvel movies with Johansson "included 'day-and-date' releases on streaming platforms as would come to pass with Black Widow; rather, in connection with those films, it took six to eight months before Marvel Studios' films would be available for streaming on an SVOD [subscription video-on-demand] service like Disney+," the lawsuit said. Disney+ charged users $30 for Black Widow Disney announced it would release Black Widow online and in theaters simultaneously in March 2021, with Disney+ users being charged a one-time fee of $30 for access to the film. It was released on July 9. In the intervening months, "Johansson, through her representatives, attempted to negotiate with Marvel to reach the aforementioned alternative 'understanding' that Marvel's chief counsel had promised under these circumstances," the lawsuit said. "Ultimately, however, Marvel ignored this outreach, no resolution was reached, and the picture was simultaneously released in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on July 9, 2021." "To no one's surprise, Disney's breach of the agreement successfully pulled millions of fans away from the theaters and toward its Disney+ streaming service," the lawsuit continued. "According to Disney's own self-congratulatory press releases, the picture grossed more than $60 million on Disney+ Premier Access in its first weekend alone." Disney executives benefit The Disney+ release thus "save[d] Marvel (and by extension, Disney) 'very large' amounts of money that it would otherwise owe Ms. Johansson," the lawsuit said. Disney's stock price jumped 4 percent in the days after the release, and company executives are likely to benefit directly from the streaming service's success, the lawsuit said: Disney's financial disclosures make clear that the very Disney executives who orchestrated this strategy will personally benefit from their and Disney's misconduct. In fiscal year 2021, Disney's Chief Executive Officer, Robert Chapek, was awarded equity grants totaling 3.8 times his $2.5 million base salary. The primary justification for that award, according to Disney's compensation committee (as detailed in the company's 2021 annual report), was that Mr. Chapek "worked to quickly program new offerings on our DTC [direct-to-consumer] and linear channels" and "launched our direct-to-consumer services in several key markets." Robert Iger, Mr. Chapek's predecessor, also received the overwhelming majority of his compensation—just over $16.5 million—in the form of stock grants. The reason for his mammoth award (according to the same annual report) was that he "(s)uccessfully launched Disney+ and drove unprecedented subscriber growth in the first year." In short, the message to—and from—Disney's top management was clear: increase Disney+ subscribers, never mind your contractual promises, and you will be rewarded. To support Johansson's contention that Disney forced Marvel to violate her contract, the lawsuit cited a February 2021 article in which 'Variety reported that [Marvel Studios' President Kevin] Feige 'was opposed to a hybrid rollout,' but that 'the powers that be' from Disney could still 'convince Feige to change his mind—or overrule him completely.'" The next month, less than a week before announcing the Disney+ release, "Disney's Mr. Chapek cleared up any remaining doubt that it was Disney, not Marvel, calling the shots, telling Bloomberg Television that 'We'll make the call probably at the last minute in terms of how these films come to market, whether it's Black Widow or any other title... We'll be watching the call carefully and make the call when we have to,'" the lawsuit said. Feige is reportedly "angry and embarrassed" about Disney's decision, as he tried to convince Disney not to release Black Widow on Disney+ until after a standard theatrical window. Scarlett Johansson sues Disney, says Disney+ release of Black Widow broke contract
  2. ‘Shang-Chi’ & ‘Free Guy’ Sticking To Theatrical Window This Summer; Will Hit Streaming After 45 Days (L-R) "Free Guy" and "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings"Everett Disney confirmed during a call to discuss its second-quarter earnings Thursday that, yes, the studio will be sticking to a purely theatrical window for some of its upcoming features. While the studio, due to the continued closure of offshore markets, has opted for a day-and-date theatrical/Disney+ Premier ($29.99) release of Cruella (May 28), Marvel’s Black Widow (July 9) and the Dwayne Johnson-Emily Blunt starrer Jungle Cruise (July 30), the 20th Century Studios title Free Guy (April 13) starring Ryan Reynolds and Marvel’s Labor Day entry Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be getting a theatrical window of 45 days before hitting Disney+. Free Guy has been set for an August 13 wide release. Shang-Chi will bow September 3. Disney CEO Bob Chapek said during the call while running through the summer slate that the theatrical window move for the two pic come amid a “more normalized cycle” in the exhibition sector, which continues to ramp up after being decimated during the pandemic. We’ve heard from industry sources that the whole theatrical/Disney+ model was temporary for the studio as it is looking to reignite its movies on the big screen as the year progresses. That’s good news for exhibition companies, some of which have been fighting Disney on stiff terms for those day-and-date theatrical-Disney+ Premier releases. Cinemark recently didn’t play Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, which had a day-and-date release during its opening weekend back in March. However, the No. 3 U.S. chain made peace with Disney and is now booking simultaneous theatrical/Disney+ fare. Source: ‘Shang-Chi’ & ‘Free Guy’ Sticking To Theatrical Window This Summer; Will Hit Streaming After 45 Days
  3. Disney Patents Blockchain-Based Movie Distribution System to Stop Pirates As a prime content producer, Disney has a vested interest in keeping pirates at bay. The entertainment company is involved in various enforcement initiatives and a few days ago, added a new anti-piracy patent to its arsenal. With a blockchain-based distribution system, Disney hopes to make it harder for pirates to intercept films being distributed to movie theaters. Disney is one of the best known brands in the world and the owner of an impressive collection of movies and TV shows. New and old releases earn the company a healthy stream of revenue, both in movie theaters and through its own movie streaming service Disney+. While there is plenty of competition from other movie studios, Disney’s single biggest threat appears to be piracy. To tackle this issue, Disney’s in-house anti-piracy team works around the clock, and the company takes part in the ACE coalition as well. Disney’s Blockchain Anti-Piracy Patent Through these anti-piracy efforts, Disney has helped to take down dozens of piracy sites and services. However, the media giant is also trying to be more proactive. A newly awarded patent proposes a blockchain-based media distribution system that aims to prevent early piracy leaks. The patent in question, titled “Blockchain configuration for secure content delivery,” focuses on the distribution of content to movie theaters. This is a vulnerable process where pirates with the right connections can make copies during or after delivery. There are already several security mechanisms in place to prevent leaks from happening. Theaters have to adhere to strict rules, for example, and movies are all watermarked. Nevertheless, Disney believes that this isn’t sufficient to stop pirates. “(s)uch security mechanisms are often reactive rather than preventative. For example, watermarking configurations insert a watermark into content to track piracy after the piracy has already occurred. As a result, current configurations do not adequately prevent piracy,” the company explains. Verifying Rights Disney argues that by implementing a secure blockchain-based system, the distribution process can be more tightly controlled. Among other things, it will make it impossible for a movie to be played before it arrives at the intended location. “In contrast with previous configurations, the blockchain configuration verifies that the content is received at the intended destination prior to allowing playback of the content at that destination,” the patent reads. The system can also be configured with other anti-piracy features. For example, it can track the number of times a movie is played to prevent bad actors from showing it more often than they should. “Further, the blockchain configuration has an automated auditing mechanism that tracks playback of the content at the destination to ensure that the quantity of playbacks is accurately recorded. Therefore, piracy by the intended recipient, in the form of a greater quantity of actual playbacks than reported playbacks, is prevented.’ Other Playback Environments While Disney regularly refers to movie theaters and projectors, it specifically states that the patent also applies to other ‘playback environments.’ For example, when Disney content is sent to other streaming providers, which will need the proper credentials to play the content. There are several possible practical implementations but whether Disney has concrete plans to use these in the real world is unknown. That said, it’s certainly intriguing to see that the company is seriously considering the blockchain. It is worth noting that this anti-piracy system is focused on the content distribution and delivery process. This will, in theory, help to prevent pre-release leaks. However, it won’t stop pirates from ripping movies and TV shows directly from Disney+. Disney is not the only media company that has an interest in blockchain technology. Earlier this year, DISH Network secured a patent for a system that online services can use to check if an uploader has the proper rights to share something. — A copy of the “Blockchain configuration for secure content delivery” patent, awarded late last month, is available here (pdf) Disney Patents Blockchain-Based Movie Distribution System to Stop Pirates
  4. Disney inks a huge Sony deal to bring Spider-Man and other films to Disney Plus and Hulu Disney adds to its web of Marvel content Photo: Sony Pictures Entertainment Disney and Sony Pictures have signed a multi-year “content licensing agreement” that will bring new Sony theatrical releases, starting with its 2022 films, to Disney-owned platforms. The deal also gives Disney the rights to many of Sony’s older films, including Spider-Man titles — meaning that movies starring the web-slinger, which are notably absent from Disney Plus’ collection of Marvel films, could eventually make their way to the streaming service. Sony’s theatrical releases from 2022 through 2026 are included in the deal, and Disney will get access to them following their “Pay 1 TV window.” Starting in 2022, that window, which follows a film’s theatrical and home video runs, will be owned by Netflix, thanks to a deal announced earlier this month. (That means new Sony films will hit theaters first, then paid rentals and purchases, then Netflix, and then finally head over to Disney platforms, possibly including Disney Plus.) So even though Disney and Sony’s deal means that Disney won’t have new Spider-Man films right after their theatrical runs, the company will get to include them in its streaming catalogue over the long term — something that Disney arguably values more. Giving people access to yet another set of movies in its ever-growing collection of Marvel properties could give people more reason to subscribe to Disney Plus. The company continues to connect the many Marvel films and shows to each other so you’ll always want to watch the next new MCU thing, and it’s continuing to invest heavily in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, courting big names for future series to give you even more reasons to keep your subscription. That all said, if Spider-Man films do make their way to Disney Plus, that won’t make Disney’s infinity gauntlet of films complete: 2008’s The Incredible Hulk (the one starring Edward Norton as the Hulk) would still not be available on the service. Unless Disney strikes some sort of deal with Universal, that is. Other Sony Pictures properties, such as Jumanji and Hotel Transylvania, are also included in the deal, according to a press release. Disney’s Hulu will also have access to “a significant number of library titles” as soon as this June, according to the release. Source: Disney inks a huge Sony deal to bring Spider-Man and other films to Disney Plus and Hulu
  5. The Muppet Show: Disney adds content warning over 'negative stereotypes' Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy starred in the original Muppet Show Disney Plus has added a content warning to the beginning of 18 episodes of The Muppet Show, which started streaming on the platform on Friday. "This programme includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures," it reads. "These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now." The disclaimer has been added to each of the episodes for different reasons, including one where Johnny Cash sings in front of the Confederate flag. The Confederacy was the group of southern states that fought to keep slavery during the US Civil War and the flag is seen as a symbol of racism by many. Disney's disclaimer added: "Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together." The advisory note comes after several months of revisionism around films and TV programmes which could be considered offensive by the standards of today. The re-assessment of old content was prompted by the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, and has sparked debate around programmes and films ranging from Fawlty Towers and Gone With The Wind to Little Britain and Bo' Selecta. The Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp perpetuated anti-Asian stereotypes The 18 episodes of The Muppet Show with the warning have been picked out from five series of Jim Henson's series, which was a big hit in the 1970s and 1980s and starred Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. Aside from Cash, other guest hosts of the episodes in question include Steve Martin, Cleo Laine, Spike Milligan, Debbie Harry and Kenny Rogers. According to the LA Times, the warning refers to negative depictions of people from other cultures including Native Americans and those from the Middle East. The publication also notes that two episodes from the final season are left out entirely - one featured Chris Langham, who was a writer on the show and stepped in to host after a celebrity guest pulled out. The actor, who went on to star in Armando Iannucci's The Thick Of It, was sentenced to 10 months in prison in 2007 for downloading indecent videos of children from the internet. The original Muppet Show ran from 1976 to 1981 However, another episode, starring guest host Brooke Shields, is absent from Disney Plus for a different reason - music rights. Several songs have also had to be edited out of other episodes because of copyright and licensing issues. Disclaimer warnings have previously been added to Disney films such as Aladdin, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats and Dumbo. The Disney Stories Matter website offers several of the films above as examples of films they feel require a disclaimer and the reasons why but there is no reference to The Muppets as yet. Source: The Muppet Show: Disney adds content warning over 'negative stereotypes'
  6. The NFL is asking for a 100% increase in TV rights payments, but Disney is pushing back KEY POINTS The NFL wants a 100% price increase from its network league partners, sources say. Negotiations are actively underway with NBC, CBS, Fox and Disney -- which owns both ESPN and ABC. Disney has already rejected a 100% increase, citing the high price tag it already pays for Monday Night Football relative to other packages, sources say. New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87) catches a pass in front of Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Terrell Edmunds (34) and linebacker Devin Bush (55) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Vincent Carchietta | USA TODAY Sports The National Football League wants to charge its current network partners double what they’ve been paying to broadcast games — but Disney is pushing back, citing the high price tag for Monday Night Football. The NFL is in active discussions on renewal rates with all four of its existing network partners — NBC, CBS, Fox, and Disney-owned ESPN, according to people familiar with the matter. The NFL is hoping to get its primary package renewals completed by March 17, before the start of the new NFL league year, CNBC reported earlier this month. NBC, CBS and Fox are likely to accept increases closer to 100% than Disney, which is currently paying much more than the three broadcast networks for its Monday Night Football package, said the people, who asked not to be named because the negotiations are private. Disney agreed to pay $1.9 billion annually for Monday Night Football in 2011 — a deal that runs through 2021. That dwarfed the average $1.1 billion annual cost for Fox, $1 billion annual price tag for CBS and $960 million for NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Disney has already rejected paying anywhere close to $3.8 billion per year for its new deal, said two of the people. Disney CEO Bob Chapek alluded to pushing back on the NFL’s asking price during his company’s earnings conference call last week. “We’re looking at the long-term trends of sports viewership,” Chapek said on Feb. 11. “We’ve had a long relationship with the NFL. If there’s a deal that will be accretive to shareholder value, we will certainly entertain that and look at that. But our first filter will be to say whether it makes sense for shareholder value going forward.” NFL games have been the most watched programming on television for many years. The top five broadcasts of 2020 were all NFL games. But there’s been a concerning decline among younger audiences, as evidenced by a decade-long decline in Super Bowl ratings among 18-to-49-year-olds. Disney’s negotiation Disney’s Monday Night Football deal is for more than just the games. Disney also gets highlight rights for ESPN, branding rights for shows, and — importantly — streaming rights. The league has asked Disney to pay the same type of increase as its other partners because Disney is asking for more from the NFL this time around — including double-header Monday Night games, where one game airs on ABC, the Disney-owned broadcast network, the people said. Disney also wants ABC to become part of the Super Bowl rotation with NBC, CBS and Fox. ABC was the home of Monday Night Football until 2005. Disney also wants flexibility in terms of streaming rights as the company considers selling ESPN as a direct-to-consumer product. The NFL plans to include streaming rights as part of each network package, the people said. Further, the NFL wants to add an 18th week of regular-season play as soon as next season. That’s an extra game for Disney — and every other broadcast partner. Spokespeople for the NFL and the networks declined to comment. Source: The NFL is asking for a 100% increase in TV rights payments, but Disney is pushing back
  7. Disney's Mulan is a smash hit on pirate sites, where millions of people streamed and downloaded pirate copies of the film over the past week and a half. For days on end, the film has been pirated many times more than the competition, which is a rare sight. This 'success' is the result of a volatile mix of steep costs, low availability, and high-quality pirate alternatives. Online movie piracy has plagued Hollywood for roughly two decades now. Despite numerous enforcement efforts, the problem only appears to get worse. Ten years ago, the threat mostly came from torrent sites which proved to be a hurdle for the impatient or tech illiterates. Today, there are hundreds of streaming sites and apps that rival Netflix, Disney, and other legal platforms. We can’t say that the movie industry hasn’t changed. Responding to rampant piracy figures, movies have appeared online more swiftly after their theatrical release. During the current pandemic, several prominent titles even premiered online. However, that appears to have had little impact. The release of Mulan illustrates this perfectly. After several delays, the film skipped the box office in most countries. Instead, it was released on Disney+ where viewers had to pay an extra fee to see it. The exact price differs per region but in the US it’s roughly $30 on top of the regular subscription. That’s a steep price or a bargain, depending on who you ask. Disney would argue that two box-office tickets plus drinks and popcorn would cost more. And you’ll save on gas too. Then again, compared to the dozens of other titles you can watch on Disney+ for the regular monthly subscription fee, it’s quite expensive. Without arguing over who’s right or wrong, the online premiere of Mulan had a major side-effect. For days on end, it’s been the most pirated movie, crushing all competition by a wide margin. Over the past several days, we’ve collected various samples of download figures from public torrent trackers with help from I Know. We don’t like to publish hard numbers as it’s impossible to capture all downloads perfectly. However, it’s clear that Mulan was downloaded millions of times through torrent sites alone. We have seen many pirated movies appear online over the past decade but seldomly do the download figures stand out like this. For example, on the first full day that it was online, September 5, Mulan was downloaded 900% more than the second most downloaded film (The Owners). This dominance continued throughout the week when no other movie came close, not even newer releases. To give an indication, here are the download estimates of the five most-downloaded movies in our sample on September 5. Pirated torrent download sample September 5 And here’s the same list a week later on September 12, more than a week after the first pirated copies appeared online. The download numbers in our sample dropped significantly but remain higher than the competition, with 300% more downloads than runner-up Ava. Pirated torrent download sample September 12 We should stress that these numbers are based on data from public torrent trackers; direct download sites and pirate streaming views are not considered. However, it clearly shows how popular Mulan is. Another good reference point is a comparison to last year’s hit release from Disney, The Lion King. That was very popular on torrent sites as well but the number of downloads was roughly 50% lower than Mulan on the first day, and also 50% lower the week after. There are several reasons that contributed to Mulan’s popularity and we’ll discuss a few here. Various surveys have shown that the most common motivation for pirates is “because it’s free.” This cost factor definitely plays a role in Mulan’s release. The pricing differs from country to country but in the US it’s $29.99, which sits on top of the $6.99 monthly subscription. Needless to say, this is a bigger hurdle to overcome when compared to regular movies that come out on Netflix or Disney+. The costs are not too far away from those associated with a visit to a movie theater for two people, but that’s where the second argument comes into play. When a movie usually premieres at the box office there are no high quality pirated copies. If there’s a release it’s usually a ‘camcorded’ version, which we saw with Tenet recently. In this case particularly, pirates prefer to pay for quality. With Mulan the situation is different. Soon after the movie appeared on Disney+, high quality pirated copies were widely shared. These are direct competitors to, and substitutes for, the official release. Finally, there are many regions where Mulan is simply not legally available. This means that for some the only option is to wait for several months avoiding all spoilers, or go down the illegal route. There may be other factors that play a role as well but steep costs, low availability, and high-quality pirate alternatives certainly play a major role. While it may be tempting to conclude that Disney’s strategy backfired, that conclusion is too easy to reach. Game of Thrones was widely known as the most pirated TV-show for years, but all the buzz surrounding the show also resulted in many new HBO subscriptions. Disney may hope for the same. The company has a dedicated anti-piracy department and knew what to expect. Perhaps they didn’t anticipate this piracy bonanza, but if it resulted in an equal boost in new subscriptions, they likely won’t complain. Source: TorrentFreak
  8. “This is the way”: Disney drops first trailer for The Mandalorian S2 “The songs tell of battles between Mandalor the Great and an order called Jedi.” Pedro Pascal is back as the titular bounty hunter who befriends a mysterious Child in The Mandalorian S2. Disney has dropped the first trailer for the second season of The Mandalorian, the Emmy-nominated first live-action Star Wars TV series created by Jon Favreau. Starring Pedro Pascal as Din Djarin, the titular Mandalorian, the series takes place a few years after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. (Spoilers for S1 below.) The basic premise is that, after the defeat of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, there was a period of chaos and lawlessness as a new government struggled to emerge from the wreckage. Pascal's bounty hunter is "a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy, far from the authority of the New Republic." In S1, the Mandalorian is looking for a bigger payout from Greef Karga (Carl Weathers), leader of a guild of bounty hunters. Karga directs him to Werner Herzog's "The Client," a nameless figure who hires the Mandalorian to retrieve a valuable asset. This turns out to be "The Child" (aka "Baby Yoda," played by puppeteers), who became the instant breakout star. The Internet (and Herzog, apparently) fell in love with "Baby Yoda" (although he isn't the Yoda, just an infant of the same species—which makes him about 50 years old). The Mandalorian's long-buried altruism emerges when he realizes that the Client's intentions are to harm (possibly even kill) The Child, and he absconds with The Child instead. That puts a bounty on his head, as well, and much of the first season followed the unlikely duo as the Mandalorian sought to find a safe haven for The Child. Their main pursuer: former Empire governor Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). Fortunately, they find useful allies in several places, as well as in Cara Dune (Gina Carano), a former Rebel shock trooper from the destroyed planet of Alderaan. And The Child himself turns out to have some surprising abilities of his own. As Ars' Sam Machkovech noted in his review of the pilot episode last year, "The Mandalorian is Star Wars for a generation of fans who remember the film series as an aesthetic, an ethos, and a promise of morally mixed discovery." He particularly praised "the balance of practical effects, carefully molded alien costumes, and intentionally cheeseball CGI," adding, "Those brief CGI moments are forgivable in light of gorgeous set design, a John Williams-caliber score of brand-new compositions, and a cast of actors who savor their pauses, beats, and moments to simmer in tension (both for action and comedy's sake)." First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. The series garnered 15 Emmy nomination for its eight-episode freshman outing. And it easily landed a spot on our top TV shows of 2019. "Favreau's brainchild has proven to be a killer vehicle for the most Star Trek-like storytelling yet in a live-action Star Wars product," Machkovech wrote. "Even better, its freak-of-the-week and brand-new-planet progression has been paired with a proper samurai story, as anchored by the religious, fervent, and conflicted Mando himself." So naturally we're all eager for S2 (and preproduction on a possible third season has purportedly already begun). Carano, Weathers, and Esposito are all returning for the second season, the latter having survived being shot down by Karga and the Mandalorian in the season finale. Alas, we bid farewell to several great characters in S1, including the assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen); Kuiil (voiced by Nick Nolte, performed Misty Rosas in an animatronic face mask), an Ugnaught moisture farmer and former slave of the Empire who sacrificed his life to protect The Child; and the droid IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi). New faces New S2 cast members include Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker's former Jedi Padawan, who is now a spymaster for the Rebel Alliance; Katee Sackhoff as Bo-Katan Kryze (reprising her voice role from The Clone Wars and Rebels animated series), who leads a Mandalorian group known as the Nite Owls; Timothy Olyphant as Cobb Vanth, a former slave who now has possession of fan favorite/bounty hunter Boba Fett's armor; and Temuera Morrison as Boba Fett—a bit of a surprise since the character seemingly perished in Return of the Jedi. The official S2 premise is appropriately vague: "The Mandalorian and The Child continue their journey, facing enemies and rallying allies as they make their way through a dangerous galaxy in the tumultuous era after the collapse of the Galactic Empire." The trailer doesn't offer much beyond that. Mando receives instructions to reunite The Child with his own kind, although exactly where that species might be lurking is apparently something he'll have to figure out for himself. It will involve seeking out "an order of sorcerers called Jedi"—sworn enemies of the Mandalorians in eons past. We get scenes of space battles, storm troopers, our duo traipsing through a remote icy world, and of course, lots and lots of Baby Yoda. And the Mandalorian remains a formidable adversary, as one band of goons learns to its detriment. The Mandalorian S2 debuts on Disney+ on October 30, 2020. A few additional promotional stills are below. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Listing image by LucasFilm Ltd. “This is the way”: Disney drops first trailer for The Mandalorian S2 (To view the article's image galleries, please visit the above link)
  9. Black Widow delayed to 2021, pushing back The Eternals and other Marvel movies The first year since 2009 without an MCU movie In a predictable fashion, Disney is delaying Black Widow to 2021 as the company continues to navigate the current theatrical landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic. This marks the first time since 2009 that a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie hasn’t been released in a calendar year. Black Widow will now open on May 7th, 2021 — more than one year after it was originally scheduled to be released. Like with other Marvel delays, Black Widow’s new date pushes Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings back from its May 7th, 2021 release date to July 9th, 2021. The Eternals, which was supposed to follow Black Widow is moving from February 12th, 2021 to November 5th, 2021. A number of other Disney films, including West Side Story and The King’s Man, were also moved around as part of the shuffle. Black Widow follows in Wonder Woman 1984’s footsteps, which Warner Bros. delayed to December 25th from an October 2nd release date in hopes that more theaters would be open and audiences more likely to go. The delays come after Tenet’s lukewarm debut in the US, where it opened to just $20 million earlier this month, largely because theaters in major cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City remain closed. Warner Bros. sees Tenet’s success as a “long-game,” meaning executives want to wait several weeks before judging the movie’s performance instead of relying on the first few weekends. Still, it’s hard to ignore that an expensive blockbuster film may not achieve the financial success many movie studios need right now. That doesn’t bode well for other studios, especially huge moneymakers like Disney with high budgets and marketing spend. The House of Mouse has explored a few different options. While movies like Hamilton and Artemis Fowl went to Disney Plus as regular streaming exclusives, Disney also built a new “Premier Access” digital purchase shelf within Disney Plus for Mulan. Disney Plus subscribers could pay an additional $30 to buy Mulan — a $200 million blockbuster originally destined for theaters — on top of their $7 monthly Disney Plus subscription fee to watch the movie. Or they could wait until December 4th when Mulan would become “free” to all Disney Plus subscribers. It’s unclear just how well Mulan performed, but Disney’s chief financial officer, Christine McCarthy, told a group gathered at the Bank of America Virtual 2020 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference last week that the company is “very pleased” with what it’s seeing. Still, McCarthy and the Disney team are committed to theatrical releases, especially heading into 2021. “We’ve got a pretty robust slate through 2021,” McCarthy said, as reported by Deadline. “We hope theaters are open, and we hope our films are films that for the people who choose to go to movie theaters, the experience of going to a theater is very different from what you would have at home.” That makes sense! Disney made $13 billion at the box office in 2019 (thanks in part to Avengers: Endgame). Disney is one of the few studios that can drive people to theaters, and it seemingly has no plans to release all of its $200 million blockbusters on Disney Plus as a Premier Access exclusive — especially if Mulan underperformed. Until consumers are ready to go back to theaters en masse, Disney is going to have to figure out which of its films it wants to save for theatrical releases in 2021 and which ones can go directly to streaming. “In general, if you look at that research, you’ll generally see that older people are less likely,” McCarthy said, talking about who is more likely to go back to theaters. “Probably younger people — the same people who are doing things we see on the news shows that they probably shouldn’t be doing, and crowding and partying — they’re probably more likely to go to a theater. But would a family with young kids go? Probably not.” Black Widow delayed to 2021, pushing back The Eternals and other Marvel movies
  10. The future of Disney is direct-to-consumer. Today Disney unveiled a new corporate structure that divides its content business into three groups that are “responsible and accountable for producing and delivering content for theatrical, linear and streaming, with the primary focus being the Company’s streaming services.” According to the company, this move is a result of the success of Disney+, where its subscriber growth has well outpaced projections it gave to investors last year. After assembling a warchest of content production with ESPN, ABC, Fox, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Marvel and of course its own Disney properties, the point of the new structure is figuring out the best way to distribute it all. New CEO Bob Chapek said in a statement that “Managing content creation distinct from distribution will allow us to be more effective and nimble in making the content consumers want most, delivered in the way they prefer to consume it. Our creative teams will concentrate on what they do best—making world-class, franchise-based content—while our newly centralized global distribution team will focus on delivering and monetizing that content in the most optimal way across all platforms, including Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ and the coming Star international streaming service.” Former president of Consumer Products, Games and Publishing Kareem Daniel has been promoted to oversee the new media distribution group. His job is to monetize all that content, in ways that may or may not include repeats of Disney’s $30 “premier VOD” Mulan release on Disney+. The company has scheduled an investor day event for December 10th where it will present more details on its direct-to-consumer plans. Disney: “Studios: Messrs. Horn and Bergman will serve as Chairmen, Studios Content, which will focus on creating branded theatrical and episodic content based on the Company’s powerhouse franchises for theatrical exhibition, Disney+ and the Company’s other streaming services. The group will include the content engines of The Walt Disney Studios, including Disney live action and Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures. General Entertainment: Mr. Rice will serve as Chairman, General Entertainment Content, which will focus on creating general entertainment episodic and original long-form content for the Company’s streaming platforms and its cable and broadcast networks. The group will include the content engines of 20th Television, ABC Signature and Touchstone Television; ABC News; Disney Channels; Freeform; FX; and National Geographic. Sports: Mr. Pitaro will serve as Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content, which will focus on ESPN’s live sports programming, as well as sports news and original and non-scripted sports-related content, for the cable channels, ESPN+, and ABC.” Source
  11. Disney has no Fox left to give as it renames TV studio to 20th Television Fox on the run Disney’s recently acquired 20th Century Fox TV studio is the latest to have the “Fox” name dropped, with the company announcing today that it’ll be rebranding the studio to just 20th Television, as part of a larger rebrand for all of Disney’s TV studios. Additionally, Fox 21 Television Studios is getting renamed to Touchstone Television (a TV brand that Disney stopped using in 2007), as the company works to remove the last traces of the Fox name from its assets. Disney is also using the rebranding to merge ABC Studios and its subsidiary ABC Signature under the ABC Signature banner. New logos and end cards will appear on TV shows this fall, including on episodes of The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad, and Bob’s Burgers. Existing episodes on streaming and digital libraries will continue to bear the original logos. The news comes after Disney enacted a similar name change for 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight Pictures film studios earlier this year, although those slightly more sensible renames simply dropped the “Fox” to become 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures. Why Disney decided to go with 20th Television instead of the more aesthetically matching “20th Century Television,” we may never know. (In fairness, both names are rather outdated given that it’s the 21st century and has been so for some time, but I digress.) Cutting “Fox” out of its acquired brands was a requirement of the deal that saw Disney gain control of 21st Century Fox’s assets last year, according to Variety. The goal is to avoid confusion between the Disney-owned parts of the former company and the “New Fox,” which includes Fox Sports, Fox Business, and the contentious Fox News, as well as ownership of the broadcast Fox TV channel. Disney has no Fox left to give as it renames TV studio to 20th Television
  12. Disney Plus' gangbusters rollout helped all three of Disney's streaming services round out the top-five US video subscriptions, following perennial leaders Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Disney's bumper launch of Disney Plus in the last year has helped all three of the company's streaming services -- Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus -- to rank in the top-five most popular US streaming-video subscriptions, according to estimates from researcher Parks Associates Wednesday. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video continue to hold court as No. 1 and No. 2 on the list, respectively. But Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus round out the top five, according to Parks' latest ranking of the biggest over-the-top subscriptions services in the US through the end of September. Disney Plus' launch was already widely regarded as one of the strongest rollouts ever in the streaming-video market. Among the raft of newer services that've launched in the last year -- including Apple TV Plus, HBO Max and Peacock -- Disney Plus has emerged as the clear front-runner by subscribers. Disney Plus has grown to 73.7 million subscribers as of Oct. 3, the company said last week as it reported earnings. Disney also introduced a three-way bundle lumping all of its streaming services together for $13 a month last year, helping piggyback ESPN Plus on Disney Plus' popularity. (Hulu has consistently been No. 3 in Parks' ranking.) Notably, Apple TV Plus, which launched the week before Disney Plus did last year, hit No. 8 in Parks' annual ranking. Apple has never divulged subscriber numbers for its streaming service, making its popularity a bit of a mystery. Apple also offered unusually generous free trials lasting a year or more to anyone who's bought an Apple device since September 2019, meaning many of Apple's subscribers have likely never paid for the service. In Parks' ranking, Apple TV Plus is now positioned right below HBO Max, which its parent company recently disclosed has 8.6 million sign-ups. NBCUniversal's Peacock didn't make Parks' list, which is based on the number of people signed up to a paid subscription. Peacock is unique among many of its competitors in that it has a free tier. Free Peacock accounts are limited in how much of its catalog is available to stream; by upgrading to a paid subscription, a member can watch anything Peacock has available. "Peacock is starting to make inroads in terms of paid subscriptions, but currently the base for that service is mainly comprised of users of the free ad-supported tier," Parks said. Parks full ranking of over-the-top video subscriptions in the US is as follows: Netflix Amazon Prime Video Hulu Disney Plus ESPN Plus HBO Max Apple TV Plus CBS All Access Showtime Starz Source
  13. Alien franchise set to return as new Marvel comic following Disney takeover The perfect organism returns to the page Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Since Disney's purchase of 20th Century Fox, there's been plenty of speculation as to what will happen to some of the studio's most famous – and bloody – franchises. Will the House of Mouse back a new Alien film, for instance? That question remains up in the air, but under Disney's Marvel banner, the classic space-horror franchise is returning in comic book form at least. Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson and artist Salvador Larroca will team up to launch 'Alien' #1 in March 2021, promising to "[venture] into never-before-seen corners of the Alien universe." The perfect organism Here's the blurb: "The new story will feature a Weyland-Yutani mercenary named Gabriel Cruz as he battles a deadly new breed of xenomorph with the survival of his child hanging in the balance. No stranger to infusing horror with the classic Marvel storytelling." “I’ve devoured every Alien story I could in every medium available and spent a lot of hours in the back of a classroom sketching out ideas for what happened before, after, and in-between the chapters we got to see," said artist Larroca, who worked on the popular 2020 Doctor Doom run. "Now I have the opportunity to bring my favorite nightmares to life. And with my insanely talented friends at Marvel and some of the greatest artists in comics telling these stories with me, I can promise you: our nightmares will be yours.” The Alien franchise is no stranger to comic book adaptations, with some of the series best-ever story telling, both on and off screen, coming from the panels of tales published by Dark Horse comics. While Marvel will be looking to establish its own continuity and relationship with the cannon established by the films, don't overlook decades' worth of excellent Alien comics already out if you're a fan of the franchise. There's nightmare-inducing stuff already out there. Alien franchise set to return as new Marvel comic following Disney takeover
  14. Disney is set to announce new Star Wars and Marvel projects later this week Expect the new announcements during an investor day livestream on December 10 (Image credit: Disney) Disney is expected to announce a slew of new shows and movies at its Disney Investor Day on December 10, including new Star Wars, Pixar and Marvel projects. As detailed by Deadline (via GamesRadar+), Disney will reportedly "announce new projects from Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar that will encompass TV as well as theatrical", including the recently-revealed Pinocchio starring Tom Hanks, and Cruella, which is set to star Emma Stone and is featured in our upcoming movies of 2021 list. While the full presentation won't be available to everyone, Disney has committed to streaming some of it online , and says it will archive the webcast presentation. What could these announcements be? On its website the company says the event, which will be focused on the company’s direct-to-consumer streaming services, is scheduled to begin at approximately 1.30pm PST / 4:30pm EST / 9.30pm GMT, and last around four hours. So what could these announcements entail? Details of the new Star Wars movie? Another TV spin-off, such as The Mandalorian? And Marvel has been pretty candid about its upcoming schedule, so we're particularly intrigued to know what might be coming our way in superhero world in 2021 and beyond. So many questions – hopefully all will be revealed on December 10. Disney is set to announce new Star Wars and Marvel projects later this week
  15. Disney has announced plans to release another bundle featuring its top streaming services, one that will be similar to the Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ bundle it already offers. As many have hoped for, the new bundle will feature the ad-free version of Hulu rather than the cheaper ad-supported version, giving users the opportunity to avoid commercials. The ad-free Hulu option is a more expensive alternative to the $6/month ad-supported plan at $12/month, but it’s worth it to those who want to avoid advertisements as much as possible. The bundle will otherwise remain unchanged with ESPN+ for sports and Disney+ for family-friendly content. The new bundle, as you’d expect, will be more expensive, but will still represent a discount compared to paying for all three services separately. The ad-free bundle will cost $18.99/month, a six-dollar increase, whereas paying for each of the three services (including the ad-free Hulu) separately would around to nearly $25/month. It remains a good deal for users who already subscribe to the services individually and is a solid way to expand your cord-cutting entertainment options without shelling out for a live OTT service. Note that the bundle only covers the on-demand Hulu plan, however — you’ll have to pay extra if you want access to the platform’s live TV option, too. Disney has big plans for Disney+ in particular. The company announced a huge number of new shows and movies that will be arriving exclusively on the platform in the next couple of years, including ones set in the Star Wars universe. Source
  16. Disney's The Mandalorian scores a raft of Emmy noms, but competition is fierce Netflix leads tally, with 160 nominations of its own (Image credit: Disney) Less than a year after its launch, the Disney Plus streaming service has made a fantastic awards season debut, snagging a total of 19 nominations for this year's Emmy Awards, with The Mandalorian scoring 15 nods in total. Among its many nominations, the live-action Star Wars series managed to score a nomination in the Outstanding Drama Series category, which is the Emmy equivalent of Best Picture at the Oscars. Other notable categories for which The Mandalorian was nominated include Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance for Taika Waititi's memorable portrayal of the IG-11 droid, Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour) and Outstanding Special Visual Effects. Along with The Mandalorian, Disney Plus' Star Wars Resistance also received a nomination for Outstanding Children’s Program, alongside nods for The World According to Jeff Goldblum, The Imagineering Story, A Celebration of the Music From Coco, and Disney Pixar's animated short Forky Asks a Question. Also making its Emmys debut this year is Apple TV Plus, with the service landing 18 nominations across a number of shows and specials, including The Morning Show, Beastie Boys Story, Defending Jacob and Central Park. Some seriously stiff competition While Disney Plus' first showing at the Emmy Awards is certainly impressive, it is but a small drop in the ocean compared to Netflix's record-breaking number of nominations. The streaming giant has made history with an astounding 160 nods in total, easily smashing the 137 nomination record set by HBO in 2019. Of the Netflix shows receiving Emmy appreciation, Ozark leads the pack with 18 nods, followed by The Crown selected for 13 categories in total. That's not to say that HBO is lacking in nominations, picking up an incredible 107 nods of its own, with its celebrated Watchmen series earning 26 nominations – the most of any single series in competition this year. In second place is Amazon Prime Video's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which picked up an impressive 20 nods. Surprisingly, Amazon's hit original series The Boys only picked up one nomination for Outstanding Sound Editing. Streaming service Hulu also fared well, picking up nominations for Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Little Fires Everywhere, Ramy and The Handmaid's Tale. As you can see, the competition at this year's Emmy Awards is certainly going to be fierce – you'll be able find out if your favorite show will take home the big awards of the night when the ceremony airs on September 20, 2020. Disney's The Mandalorian scores a raft of Emmy noms, but competition is fierce
  17. Disney is launching a new Star-branded streaming service internationally The big question now is what it means for Hulu Disney plans to launch a new general entertainment streaming platform overseas in 2021 under the Star brand name, CEO Bob Chapek announced today. Chapek didn’t give too many details about the platform, including in which countries Star would launch or pricing, but he noted that it would include content from ABC, FX, Freeform, Searchlight, and 20th Century Studios. Star will not carry licensed content, which is different from Disney’s other general entertainment streaming service, Hulu. More information is expected to be announced at an upcoming investors day that will focus on plans for Disney Plus, Hulu, ESPN Plus, and Star. The announcement comes as Disney hits major streaming milestones, including surpassing 60 million Disney Plus subscribers worldwide, and 100 million subscribers overall to its streaming offerings — Hulu, ESPN Plus, and Disney Plus. Streaming remains the lone bright spot for the company, which saw major revenue drops this quarter. “In terms of the general entertainment offering internationally, we want to mirror our successful Disney Plus strategy by using our Disney Plus technical platform, bringing in content we already own and distributing it under a successful international brand that we also already own, which is, of course, Star,” Chapek said. The launch of Star also brings up another important question: what about Hulu? Former CEO Bob Iger announced that Disney was targeting an international launch in 2021, but Chapek said in May that the company had no immediate plans to “make any investment in that business internationally.” Chapek didn’t say if Star is replacing Hulu, but he spent some time explaining why the company is launching a general entertainment service under Star instead of just expanding Hulu internationally. “I think it’s important to look at the differences at how we plan to enter the market,” Chapek said. “Hulu aggregates third party content; this will not...Hulu has no brand awareness outside of the US.” Disney Stars Studio is a big brand overseas compared to Hulu, which is a US-specific name. When Disney acquired Indian media and entertainment conglomerate Star India and subsequent streaming service HotStar in 2019 as part of the Fox deal, the company changed the name to create Disney Plus HotStar, uniting the two brands. Now, Star is known as Disney’s Star India. Having “Star” become the international brand name, on top of Disney Plus, makes sense. But does this mean Hulu also heading to international territories? Or is Star replacing Hulu entirely? The Verge has reached out to Disney for clarification. Disney is launching a new Star-branded streaming service internationally
  18. Disney faces an Avengers: Endgame-sized hole as earnings plummet Disney’s studios division saw a massive decline year over year Photo: Film Frame / Marvel Studios Disney continues to face financial woes in just about every part of its business, but one year after Avengers: Endgame came out, it’s clear just how much the pandemic has affected its studios division. Disney didn’t release any major films last quarter, and the third quarter earnings report shows how much that impacted the company. Overall, revenue hit $11.78 billion, down from $20.2 billion the year before, but most of that came from streaming. Studio revenues decreased 55 percent in the quarter to $1.7 billion, the company announced. That means Disney made $1.7 billion this quarter, and $3.8 billion in the same time frame last year. What it shows is there’s a big Avengers: Endgame hole in the calendar, and it’s a perfect example of just how much of an impact the pandemic has had on one of Disney’s core businesses. “Theatrical distribution in the quarter was negatively impacted by COVID-19 as theaters were generally closed domestically and internationally,” the report reads. “No significant titles were released in the current quarter compared to the release of Avengers: Endgame, Aladdin and Dark Phoenix in the prior-year quarter.” Last year, revenue in the third quarter for Disney’s studios business saw $3.8 billion — an increase of 33 percent over the previous quarter. That’s an impressive sum, helped by Avengers: Endgame, the biggest movie in history. It’s even more impressive considering that Disney also saw substantial losses in its film division ($170 million in operating revenue) because of underwhelming 20th Century Fox movies, particularly Dark Phoenix. Even with those losses, Disney had enough blockbusters to bring in sizable revenue, leaving executives to pat each other on the back for a job well done. Now, Disney’s theatrical arm is up in the air. Mulan was taken off the theatrical calendar, and questions are already being lobbed about what it means for Black Widow, which is due out on November 6th. What happens over the next several months is crucial. Could Disney release its biggest films of the year (Mulan and Black Widow) as a staggered release? Warner Bros. is exploring the staggered release route with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which will see the film premiere in 70 international territories on August 26th before being released in select cities in the United States on September 3rd. Could Mulan debut internationally before hitting US theaters? Or could Disney use a combination of digital rentals and its booming streaming business in the interim until theaters can reopen safely and people can head back to the movies? It seems unlikely considering how much Mulan and Black Widow could make in theaters, but that was in the Before Times. Things might not be going great for the House of Mouse, but the company’s streaming division is continuing to grow at an incredible speed. Disney Plus now boasts 57.5 million subscribers. Disney’s streaming division also saw revenues increase two percent over the quarter to $4 billion. A lone bright spot for the company. “Despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, we’ve continued to build on the incredible success of Disney Plus as we grow our global direct-to-consumer businesses,” CEO Bob Chapek said in the earnings report. “The global reach of our full portfolio of direct-to-consumer services now exceeds an astounding 100 million paid subscriptions — a significant milestone and a reaffirmation of our DTC strategy, which we view as key to the future growth of our company.” Disney Plus, Hulu, and even ESPN Plus all saw growth in the last quarter, but it was Disney Plus that continued to shine. Part of that comes from Hamilton landing on the streamer — a high-profile film that brought in a bunch of new subscribers for Disney Plus. While Disney is facing the same production woes as its competitors, the company can bring older titles to its platform until new shows — like The Mandalorian’s second season in October — debut. Disney is already doing this; the company has turned boring licensing deals into a “Summer Movie Nights” festival, marking each week with an X-Men movie or the arrival of Pixar’s The Incredibles 2. While Disney owns Pixar and the X-Men franchise following its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, the films were tied up in previous licensing deals and unavailable until now. They’re not new films by any means, but the marketing makes it seem like Disney Plus has a couple of exciting new additions, and it may be enough to get some people to reengage with the platform or sign up. The big question is whether Disney Plus and Hulu are enough to weather the storm. Disney’s parks and cruise sector faced total closures or limited reopenings in countries like China for the quarter, and similar to Comcast, Google, and Twitter, advertising revenue for networks like ESPN and ABC was down year over year. Disney’s ability to quickly bounce back is far from a certainty. The company’s ad revenue in June alone fell 36 percent compared to 2019 due to the lack of sports, according to Variety. Its media networks division is hopeful things will get better with the return of sports, but that could go awry, too, if games are canceled. Disney reported its media division decreased 2 percent to $6.6 billion. Parks face a similar problem. The phased reopening seems to be going well for Disney so far, but cases in Florida and California continue to grow. Those parks could see shutdowns again if cases continue to climb. Parks revenues for the quarter decreased 85 percent, according to the report. Disney’s earnings aren’t great, but they’re not unexpected. As streaming remains the lone bright spot, it’ll be interesting to see just how much Disney leans on it in the coming months, as executives figure out how to get things back to some semblance of normalcy. Disney faces an Avengers: Endgame-sized hole as earnings plummet
  19. It's Disney's turn to launch a streaming service Image copyrightDISNEY Image captionDisney+ will be accessible through smart TVs as well as smartphones and tablets Can an almost century-old company learn from its glorious past and create itself a brave new future? Coming to a small screen near you… eventually. Disney has finally announced its long-anticipated streaming service, but it won’t be available until November in North America - and in some markets, it will take much longer. That’s due to several factors, but mostly because Disney is still in the process of clawing back the rights to its content, sold to other streaming platforms before it had platform aspirations of its own. It will take as long as four years before all of the deals have expired, the firm said. The delay could hobble Disney’s chances to succeed in the streaming market, described by chief executive Bob Iger as his “biggest priority”. When it does eventually launch, however, Disney+ will be a streaming juggernaut. The service will bundle together some of the firm’s major franchises, including the work of Pixar, Marvel, National Geographic and Star Wars, for a monthly subscription price of $6.99, or $69.99 a year. And because the firm has had its chequebook out lately - spending $70bn on 20th Century Fox - Disney+ will also incorporate content from recently acquired companies, such as the first 30 seasons of The Simpsons. Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES Image captionDisney+ will be the exclusive home of Star Wars films and other spin-off content More widely, Disney also owns sports network ESPN, which now has more than 2 million paid digital subscribers, and India’s Hotstar - which enjoys 300m subscribers in a market predicted to continue to grow extremely quickly. Disney is also a majority owner in Hulu, the US streaming service that has plans to expand globally soon, the firm said. Straight to Disney+ These are all big moves that place Disney right at the heart of a crowded but increasingly lucrative streaming market - one where being distinct is vital. Netflix expects to spend $15bn on new content this year to achieve this aim. Apple, last month, launched its Apple TV+ service, with help of Oprah and friends who will be creating exclusive content. Disney’s strategy to reassure its investors, it seems, is to state that obvious: its been doing this for a very long time indeed. The launch of Disney+ took place in a fitting location that has seen plenty of transformation over the past few decades: Sound Stage 2, on the firm’s iconic, sprawling Los Angeles campus. Built in 1949, the studio was the space where the original Mary Poppins was filmed, as well as, decades later, Pirates of the Caribbean. Both heralded new technologies in filmmaking. But, Disney’s illustrious past could end up being a hindrance. It sold 900m movie tickets last year, bringing in more than $7bn in box office revenue. It can’t afford to lose the core of its business, and so it will keep its big name content off Disney+ until well after its traditional run-out in the cinema and home entertainment sales (as in, buying it on Blu-Ray, or downloading it). Disney+ subscribers will instead get additional content, mini-series based on characters in the new films, or behind the scenes footage. There will be straight-to-Disney+ films available when the service goes live, such as Christmas film Noelle, starring Anna Kendrick, and a remake of Lady and the Tramp. These films will be made with “all the care” of typical Disney movies, the company promised, but as with straight-to-video in years gone by, consumers will surely not see them as being in the same league. Over-subscribed? Higher hopes will be pinned on exclusive series made for Disney+, such as The Mandalorian, a the first live-action Star Wars TV series - which will be on the service from launch. This is an expensive endeavour for Disney. It doesn’t expect Disney+ to turn a profit until 2023 at the earliest, and in the meantime it is losing out on revenue it was getting by selling on its content to other streaming providers - it was getting $150m from Netflix alone, according to reports. At $6.99 a month, Disney is laying down a huge challenge to Apple, which hasn't yet told customers how much its service will cost when it too launches later this year. Above all, though, the unanswered question remains: just how many subscription services can the public take? A generation of delighted “cord cutters”, who cancelled traditional TV subscriptions in favour of streaming, might soon start to wonder how much it might cost just to, you know, plug the cord back in. Source
  20. Disney now owns 21st Century Fox, X-Men, and most of Hulu Welcome to Disney, Deadpool Michael Loccisano/Getty Images After more than a year of working to get final approval, Disney’s lengthy process of acquiring 21st Century Fox is finally done. The merger went through at 12:02 am ET, giving Disney full control over a number of 21st Century Fox entities including the company’s entire movie studio division, its 30 percent stake in streaming service Hulu, and the Fox Television Group. The acquisition received final approval from antitrust regulators around the world in recent months. Despite the acquisition, Fox Corp. will retain its independence, and entities like Fox News and Fox Sports in the United States. “This is an extraordinary and historic moment for us — one that will create significant long-term value for our company and our shareholders,” CEO Bob Iger said in a press release.“Combining Disney’s and 21st Century Fox’s wealth of creative content and proven talent creates the preeminent global entertainment company, well positioned to lead in an incredibly dynamic and transformative era.” Still, Disney’s main focus is on 20th Century Fox’s film assets, its catalogue of film and television shows, and its stake in Hulu. Disney CEO Bob Iger has previously spoken about the company’s plans to incorporate Fox content into its own business plans, including possibly integrating franchises like Deadpool and the X-Men into its own Marvel universe and bringing Hulu to an international audience. The deal now gives Disney control of nearly 40 percent of today’s marketshare, according to Vanity Fair. Perhaps the biggest addition to Disney’s portfolio, and the most important as it prepares for a direct-to-consumer business model, is becoming a majority stakeholder in Hulu. Disney now has a controlling 60 percent stake in Hulu, and analysts predict that Iger will try to gain even more ownership over the streaming service. He’s told investors numerous times that he has no plans to abandon ship, even in light of Disney gearing up to launch its own streaming service, Disney+. Iger wants to increase spending on Hulu’s programming side, and bring it international. It would make Hulu, which already boasts 25 million subscribers in the United States, more of a competitor to Netflix. And if Disney does expand Hulu into the European market, it means more original content and licensing of European series as new impositions have made it mandatory for streaming services. On the film franchise side, it might be a while before the Fantastic Four or the X-Men show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iger has said there is a place for films like Fox’s superhero films (which are currently under the Marvel Entertainment umbrella, but not produced by Disney’s Marvel Studios), but it might not be within the PG-13 universe that Disney has cultivated. R-rated movies like Deadpool “will continue,” Iger told investors in February, but noted they had to be kept separate. It’s the same mentality Iger has suggested will apply to series and films either on Disney+ or Hulu; those on the former must abide by Disney’s family-friendly status quo, while Hulu could carry more adult titles. Kevin Feige, co-president of Marvel Studios, also doesn’t have much more to offer fans finally hoping to see some of the Avengers team up with the X-Men. Feige spoke about the deal on Variety’s Playback podcast in December, and noted that while the “notion of the characters coming back is great,” they haven’t started planning anything yet. It’s not just content and streaming that will be affected by the acquisition. On the corporate end, both Disney and Fox employees are expected to be hit by the acquisition, which will see an estimated 4,000 employees laid off. Most of these jobs are expected to be roles that now find themselves duplicated. Analyst Rich Greenfield told The Hollywood Reporterthat it could be closer to 8,000 employees, calling the merger “bloodshed.” “This is virgin territory for Disney, which has never done a mass integration,” he said. Source
  21. A warrior emerges — Disney leans hard into Space Western territory in new Mandalorian trailer “Mandalorian, look outside. They’re waiting for you.” Pedro Pascal stars in The Mandalorian, a new Star Wars series debuting on Disney+ in November. Disney's new streaming service, Disney+, launches next month, featuring the Mouse House's flagship eight-episode new series, The Mandalorian. It's a spinoff of the Star Wars franchise starring Pedro Pascal (Oberyn Martell, aka the Red Viper in Game of Thrones). And judging by the latest trailer, Disney is leaning hard into Space Western territory with this tale of a lone bounty hunter navigating the chaos in the wake of the Empire's collapse. Details have been scant, but per the official synopsis: "After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic." The premise is that after the defeat of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, there was a period of chaos and lawlessness as a new government struggled to emerge from the wreckage. Pascal told Entertainment Weekly that his character is very much in the vein of Clint Eastwood, with advanced combat skills and "questionable moral character." Showrunner Jon Favreau confirmed as much, telling EW, "It's like after the Roman Empire falls, or when you don't have a centralized shogun in Japan—and, of course, the Old West, when there wasn't any government in the areas that had not yet been settled." So I guess it's like Unforgiven or Gladiator in space, which could bode well, since both those films are terrific. Disney debuted the first trailer in August at its annual D23 Expo, and it gave little away. We caught glimpses of space battles, tense standoffs, and even Han Solo encased in carbonite (which doesn't quite jibe with the timeline but could be a flashback). Pascal's Mandalorian loomed menacingly but never uttered a word. The only dialogue came courtesy of Werner Herzog: "Bounty hunting is a complicated profession. Don't you agree?" First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. This latest trailer adds just a tiny bit more detail to the footage we've already seen. "Is the world more peaceful since the revolution?" Werner Herzog's voiceover asks as the camera pans over stormtrooper helmets mounted on spikes. "It is a shame that your people suffered." That gives us a hint that the Mandalorian wasn't always a lone gunfighter wandering the universe collecting bounties. Cut to the Mandalorian, being ambushed in a cavern and skillfully fighting off his attacker. The Mandalorian has been hired by the head of a bounty hunter guild named Greef Carga (Carl Weathers) to track an unspecified valuable asset. He has an ally/love interest in Cara Dune (Gina Carano), a former Rebel Shock Trooper-turned-mercenary who used to fight for the Rebel Alliance, and is aided by a droid named IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi). The droid is described as an innocent incapable of lying or comprehending sarcasm, but at least IG-11 looks pretty proficient with weapons in the trailer. Complicating matters is Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), described as "a former governor under the Empire whose life changed after the Rebels destroyed the second Death Star." But it's Herzog's as-yet-unnamed villain who is front and center in this new trailer. "They said you were coming. They said you were the best in the parsec," the voiceover intones, as Herzog's character and Pascal's bounty hunter face off in what looks like a rogue's cantina. At last the Mandalorian finally speaks. "Mandalorian, look outside. They are waiting for you," Herzog says. The bounty hunter goes full Clint Eastwood in his rasping response: "Yeah? Good." Go ahead, Werner Hertzog. Make his day. The Mandalorian will be released in conjunction with Disney's new streaming platform, Disney+, on November 12, 2019. Listing image by YouTube/Disney Plus Source: Disney leans hard into Space Western territory in new Mandalorian trailer (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
  22. Disney releases new footage from The Rise of Skywalker Our first proper look at Star Wars Episode IX. This post by its nature will contain potential spoilers for Star Wars Episode IX. Do not read on if that's going to upset you. It's been a busy few days for Star Wars fans thanks to Disney's D23 expo. First, we saw the trailer for The Mandalorian, an original series for the new Disney+ streaming service, which begins in November. That was followed with news that Ewan McGregor will return to the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in another new series for Disney+, but it didn't stop there. At D23 we also got our best look yet at episode nine—The Rise of Skywalker—which opens in December, and on Monday morning Disney posted that footage to YouTube. First we see a montage of scenes from the original trilogy, then more recent Star Wars films, set to a haunting variation on John Williams' score. We hear a tired-sounding Luke Skywalker telling someone that "this is your fight," then the horns begin to swell. What follows over the next 30 or so seconds is new. Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, and C-3PO are on a desert planet. Tatooine, Jakku, or somewhere new? Who knows, but there's a bustling settlement. Then a brief shot of Leia before the setup to what may well be an enormous space battle. The resistance better have something up their collective sleeve because I don't think I've ever seen so many Star Destroyers in one frame before. There's a giant red laser ruining the day of everything in its path, indicating that the starkiller technology we saw in The Force Awakens might make a comeback. Rey does some some Jedi training in Endor, or a place that looks a lot like it, and there's a stormy seaside saber showdown between her and Kylo Ren. Things go black for a while, we hear the sound of a Vader-like respirator, and then... Rey as a Sith? Disney also dropped a poster for The Rise of Skywalker, which curiously features Palpatine staring straight at you as Rey and Kylo Ren duel in the foreground. I was pretty sure he met his end in the reactor of the second Death Star during Return of the Jedi, but I guess not. Listing image by Disney Source: Disney releases new footage from The Rise of Skywalker (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
  23. Netflix defined binge culture, but the new wave of streaming services is going another route When Netflix started Beyoncéing its TV shows (releasing entire seasons at once, often with little or no warning), the streaming service reinvented how people consume TV. As Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos explained it in 2016, TV viewers were already moving away from an “appointment TV” model and toward saving up DVR’d episodes for binge viewing, so the service tried to keep up with the ways its customers wanted to consume content. In subsequent years, streaming subscribers became accustomed to binging shows. But powerhouses like Disney, Apple, and Hulu are looking to change the game again by taking the opposite strategy with their streaming services. If Netflix turned patience into a forgotten virtue, its competitors are trying to bring it back. At Disney’s biannual D23 Expo executives revealed that episodes on the upcoming Disney+ streaming service will follow a weekly release schedule. A show like the Marvel Cinematic Universe spinoff Loki, which is slated to run approximately six hours (likely meaning six episodes total) will come out over the course of six weeks. That’s similar to the way Hulu (which is also owned by Disney), Amazon, and HBO Now operate. But while HBO Now doesn’t have streaming exclusives and is tied into HBO’s weekly release schedule, Disney and Hulu aren’t tied to traditional network schedules. They’ve voluntarily chosen to release most episodes on a week-to-week basis. (Hulu often releases three episodes at once to kick off a season, then drops to one per week afterward.) Apple is reportedly planning to take the same route when its streaming service, Apple TV Plus, launches this fall. The weekly release model is a smart move for Disney — and potentially any new streaming service that’s initially focused on building a subscriber base, rather than servicing a demanding, preexisting one. Tying new content to beloved franchises, then doling it out a bit at a time is a way for Disney, in particular, to keep subscribers hooked. When Disney+ launches, people who want to watch all of Jon Favreau’s Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, will need to keep their subscriptions active for at least a couple of months. While cord-cutters routinely look for ways to dip in and out of new services, bingeing the content they care about, Disney is looking to keep its initial subscribers stable while adding more throughout the year. The strategy is crucial for Disney to reach its estimated goal of around 10 million customers by the end of 2020. But the weekly release model isn’t just business. Netflix’s decision to release its shows by the season instead of by the episode helped change television culture. It conditioned viewers to believe that streaming must be equivalent to immediacy. Those bingeing habits have created a cultural disturbance, with new etiquette rules forming online in an effort to respect other people’s viewing schedules. People argue endlessly about the spoiler etiquette on popular shows like Stranger Things, where many viewers will have watched the entire season within the first day of release, while others only have the time to experience it gradually. Netflix has the freedom to release entire seasons at a time because of its continuous waterfall of content. It has licensed content to fall back on (though not as much as it used to) if people want to just throw on some comfort TV, but it’s also increased its content development budget by more than $10 billion over the last few years to keep a steady stream of material coming to its binge-trained consumers. HBO, Hulu, Amazon, and Disney don’t have that luxury. Disney is launching with significantly less content than Netflix — a point CEO Bob Iger has made multiple times on calls with investors. It doesn't need as much content, though. Disney isn’t in the game of ordering hundreds of shows or movies every year to plump up its offerings; it’s relying on a play that resembles HBO’s model rather than Netflix’s. “Our job is hard, but it’s not as hard, because our content strategy is about quality, not quantity,” Michael Paull, president of streaming services at Disney, told The Verge at D23. “Our content’s about curation.” Disney wants each of its shows to make a cultural impact and for people to talk about them week after week. It’s similar to what Hulu hoped to accomplish with original series like Castle Rock and The Handmaid’s Tale. Amazon went with a similar approach to its shows, like The Grand Tour and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and it’s what Apple plans to do with series like The Morning Show. These are expensive shows, and their parent companies want people to discuss them endlessly, not whisk through them and go looking for the next thing immediately. Bringing the water cooler effect back to streaming television helps companies get more impact and attention. While viewers talked about each new episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones for a week or more while it was on the air, the new season of Netflix’s hit Stranger Things seems to have come and gone in a flash. Researchers have long suggested that people who binge-watch a show are also more likely to forget what happens than those who space out their viewing time. Bingers are more likely to experience the euphoric highs, as psychologists have discovered, but they also move past a show more quickly once they’re done watching it. The most ironic thing coming out of the streaming wars is a throwback to what made TV feel like a shared pastime between the 1950s and the pre-Netflix days: waiting, celebrating, and commiserating together. Adam Chitwood at Collider said it best: As someone who pines for the days when we could hit the internet after each episode of Lost and speculate wildly with no worry about spoiling the episode for people, or grieve with friends over that shocking episode of ER the night before, I am very much in favor of Disney+ releasing episodes weekly. Source
  24. Disney entered the streaming market this week with its own video on demand platform. While there is plenty of interest in the new service, piracy remains a major concern. This is an area Disney's "piracy intelligence team" is keeping a close eye on, and they are currently looking for reinforcement. This week Disney launched its new streaming platform which immediately gained millions of subscribers. At the same time, there was plenty of interest in ‘unauthorized’ Disney+ releases on pirate sites, particularly in the exclusive Mandalorian series. As one of the largest entertainment companies in the world, Disney is not new to piracy. It has dealt with this issue for decades. However, now that it operates its own exclusive platform there are other factors to take into account. How do exclusive releases impact piracy rates, for example? And what is the effect on subscriber rates? How the interplay between legal and illegal supply affects revenues can be a complex and dynamic puzzle to solve. What is clear is that Disney has the goal to minimize piracy. While it’s not publicized much, the company has a dedicated “piracy intelligence” team that continually keeps an eye on the piracy landscape. Just recently, a new vacancy opened up, perhaps tied to the launch of Disney+. While there are few details available, Disney describes the team as follows: “The Piracy Intelligence team at The Walt Disney Studios is based in Burbank and provides meaningful piracy insights to inform strategies that maximize revenue for the film and TV business and minimize the piracy impact.” Disney is currently looking for a market research and data analyst, who will be responsible for supporting a variety of “piracy intelligence initiatives” and to “measure movie and TV viewing trends across digital media platforms.” Unfortunately, there is not much information online about the goals and accomplishments of Disney’s anti-piracy team. TorrentFreak reached out to multiple contacts at the company, but thus far we have yet to receive a response. It’s no secret, however, that major entertainment companies keep a close eye on the pirate landscape. The enforcement side of this is often quite visible. This is also true for Disney. The company is a member of the global anti-piracy coalition ACE, which has filed several lawsuits and chases site owners and developers as well. However, piracy “intelligence” can also be used as a valuable market signal. That aspect would be more in line with the “market research” and “data analyst” Disney is currently looking for. This type of piracy use wouldn’t be unique. Previously we reported how Netflix uses piracy to figure out how much they can charge in a country, as well as what content they license. Similarly, Hulu uses piracy data to see what is popular among potential viewers. Disney may use similar signals to determine how to best position Disney+ and what content it should offer to minimize piracy, and perhaps more importantly, maximize revenue. While I have no intention of applying for the job, one free bit of advice is to make sure that Disney+ is available everywhere in the world. Right now, many people feel left out which makes pirated Disney+ exclusives quite tempting. But I guess the intelligence team will notice that soon enough. source
  25. Loyal, brave, and true — The full trailer for Disney’s live-action Mulan is here, and it’s breathtaking "When they find out who you are, they will show you no mercy." Chinese-American actress Liu Yifei stars in Disney's live-action Mulan. Disney has released the full trailer for Mulan, the studio's live-action remake of its own 1998 animated film. When the first teaser dropped in July, I noted that, while I'm not a huge fan of Disney's live-action remakes, "this is an effective, sumptuously eye-catching teaser for Mulan." This latest trailer cements that assessment. It looks gorgeous, very much in the style of a period war drama, and its rumored $300 million production budget shows in every breathtaking shot. Both films are based on the Chinese legend "The Ballad of Hua Mulan," which tells the story of a young woman in the Northern Wei era (spanning 386-536 CE) who takes her father's place when each family is required to provide one male to serve in the emperor's army. In this version, Hua Mulan is already a well-trained fighter, and she serves for 12 years, with none of her fellow soldiers ever suspecting her true gender. Disney's animated film broadly followed the traditional storyline, except Mulan is not well-trained when she first runs away. The film also added a love interest, a goofy dragon representative of the family ancestors named Mushu (hilariously voiced by Eddie Murphy), and a catchy original soundtrack. Mulan was released to critical acclaim, grossing $304 million worldwide and earning Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. In other words, while it didn't exactly set the box office on fire, it was popular enough to merit a spot on the roster of Disney's ongoing live-action remakes. This new live-action version, directed by Niki Caro, also preserves the traditional storyline and several elements of the original film. The matchmaker has just found the free-spirited Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei) a suitable match, and Mulan dutifully tries to learn the arts associated with being the perfect Chinese wife—while secretly practicing martial arts. She's far better at the latter. When her famed war veteran father Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma), who has no sons, is conscripted into the Emperor's army to help ward off Northern invaders led by Böri Khan (Jason Scott Lee), she disguises herself as a man to take her father's place. Mulan also has a younger sister, Hua Xiu (Xana Tang) in the live-action version, which also includes a new Khan ally: a witch named Xianniang (Gong Li) who can shapeshift into a hawk form. This new trailer opens with Hua Zhou lecturing his daughter on the importance of being a good Chinese wife. "Do you know why the phoenix sits at the right hand of the emperor?" he says. "She is his guardian. His protector. She is both beautiful and strong. Your job is to bring honor to the family. Do you think you can do that?" We see Khan's horde in action, leaping up walls and leaving no survivors, and several dramatic shots of the witch Xianniang, who is quite a formidable fighter herself. And we see Mulan running off in the middle of the night to take her father's place: "It is my duty to protect my family." First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Mulan finds a mentor in Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) and a love interest in an ambitious fellow recruit, Chen Honghui (Yoson An). A training montage leads up to a head-to-head confrontation between Mulan and Xianninang—two strong female warriors defying convention. "When they find out who you are, they will show you no mercy," the witch warns. But as the two armies prepare to battle it out, I'm betting Mulan will make good on her vow to "bring honor to us all." At least in the trailers, the elements of slapstick from the animated film are noticeably absent. I'm OK with that choice; an ambitious re-invention is vastly preferable to just producing a shot-by-shot remake of the original (I'm looking at you, live-action Lion King). Mushu fans in particular have been lamenting that character's absence. However, there's a brief scene where Mulan's father prays to the family ancestors to keep her safe, followed by a shot of a colorful winged creature rising into the air. It's not the hawk form of the witch, either, so this just might be a less overtly comedic version of Mushu, in phoenix rather than dragon form. The cast list includes Jun Yu as the voice of Mulan's pet cricket, Cri-Kee, so if Cri-Kee is in it, why not Mushu? All of which leads me to suspect there will still be a bit of humor in the final film, if only to break up the tension now and then. Prediction: controversy over some political statements by Liu Yifei regarding the Hong Kong protests notwithstanding, Mulan is likely to be a huge box office hit for Disney next year. Mulan hits theaters March 27, 2020. Source: The full trailer for Disney’s live-action Mulan is here, and it’s breathtaking (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
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