Disney sees big loss as pandemic hits parks, studios; subscriptions rise

Carla Harmon
August 5, 2020

Disney's much-delayed blockbuster Mulan will skip the big screen and premiere on streaming platform Disney+ next month, it was announced Tuesday, as coronavirus keeps theaters shut across much of the United States.

In a surprise move, Disney said it will release "Mulan" on Disney+ on September 4 for people to watch at home at a cost of US$30, and in theaters in markets where Disney+ is not available.

In a case of good news and bad news for fans anxiously awaiting the arrival of the latest live-action remake of a classic property from the studio, Disney has announced that Niki Caro's Mulan will be making its debut on Disney+ for an extra price on top of its subscription rate, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"We are looking at Mulan as a one-off, as opposed to trying to say that there is some new business window model we are looking at" regarding movie launches, Chapek said. They also said it will be released in theaters in some markets where theaters are open.

Disney's core businesses may have gotten pummeled during the third quarter as a result of COVID-19, but investors didn't even flinch Tuesday when the company reported earnings.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek reveals if Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow will be released on Disney Plus. The company's streaming offerings have passed a major marker of 100 million paid subscribers combined, including about 35 million Hulu subscribers, Chapek said.

Chapek shared that as of August 3rd, Disney+ had 60.5 million paid subscribers. Its Florida theme parks reopened in July with health and safety guidelines in place, including limits on the number of visitors allowed inside. Operating income decreased 72% from $3.952 billion to $1.099 billion for the 3rd quarter.

Most notably, Disney's most profitable and cash-generating segment - parks, experiences and products - swung to an operating loss of $1.96 billion compared to $1.7 billion profit in the same quarter past year. Amid the global health pandemic, the company's direct-to-consumer services - which includes its streaming services - was among the only segment seeing yearly growth.

It also said it will launch a general entertainment streaming service in worldwide markets under the brand Star. Operating income was $3.15 billion, up 48%, thanks in part to an increase in profit from ESPN.

The Media Networks division brought in $6.562 billion in revenue this quarter compared to $6.713 billion a year ago, a decrease of 2% over 2019's third quarter. ABC also benefited from lower programming costs.

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