Disney may have made the bold decision to pull Mulan from most theaters and send it exclusively to their in-house streaming service, but the studio were still hoping that the latest live-action remake would be able to do some big business at the box office after releasing in several key Asian markets, particularly China.
After all, Niki Caro’s blockbuster was clearly designed with the world’s fastest-growing market in mind, and it was about more than just giving native megastars Liu Yifei and Donnie Yen top billing. Something as innocuous as a kissing scene was removed at the request of the country’s strict censorship board, while the Mouse House admitted that beloved sidekick Mushu was left out of the movie so that audiences weren’t offended.
Even after making concessions and shooting plenty of exterior footage in China, though, Mulan has continued to be dogged by backlash. The leading lady came under fire for defending the Hong Kong police force, and the controversy has only grown after the credits publicly thanked the Xinjiang province, where human rights violations are said to have taken place. The Chinese government has also banned all media coverage of Mulan to try and stem the tide, while Disney’s CFO confessed that the negative publicity had been a problem.
None of that would have mattered if Mulan was dominating the local box office, but if early reports are any indication, the historical epic looks to be bombing hard, a far cry from when it was being predicted to set records just a few months ago. Disney’s latest could only open to a little over $8 million on Friday, and is expected to just about squeak past $20 million by the end of the weekend.
The bad buzz has definitely hurt Mulan in the only territory it stood a chance of making money at the box office, and Disney can hardly use the Coronavirus pandemic as an excuse when The Height Hundred opened three weeks ago on just as many screens and raked in over $116 million.