'Mulan' flopped in its box-office debut in China

Walt Disney Pictures

“Mulan” was supposed to be a major hit in China.

But after months of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Disney live-action remake finally hit theaters in the region to disappointing results. 

The movie earned just $23 million in its China debut over the weekend, even with most theaters back open. It’s a lousy start for a movie that cost $200 million to produce and skipped a theatrical release in the US in favor of the Disney Plus streaming service, where it costs subscribers an additional $30 fee to watch.

Calls to boycott the movie erupted after its streaming premiere. The end credits thanked several Chinese government entities in Xinjiang that had been implicated in human-rights violations against Muslim Uighurs. Parts of the movie were filmed in the Xinjiang region.

Nearly 44% of tweets about “Mulan” from September 1 to September 9 expressed a negative sentiment toward the movie, according to data-trends company SEMrush (around 40% expressed a positive sentiment). There were about 19,000 tweets using the hashtag “#BoycottMulan” on Twitter in that time period.

Chinese authorities forced a media blackout on the movie in an effort to hide the growing controversy, according to Variety.

Disney hasn’t released viewership details for “Mulan” on Disney Plus, but data from analytics company Samba TV provide a snapshot of how much money it made in the US its debut over Labor Day weekend. According to Samba TV, movie was watched by 1.12 million US households from September 4 to September 7 on connected TVs, which include smarts TVs, Roku, and gaming consoles but not mobile or laptop viewership.

At $30, that means it earned $33.5 million, according to Samba TV estimates. It has grossed $37.8 million at the global box office so far, including China, according to Box Office Mojo.

“Mulan” will be available to all Disney Plus subscribers at no additional cost in December.

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