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Disney delays 'Mulan' premiere indefinitely, pushes release of 'Avatar,' 'Star Wars'

The move comes three days after Warner Bros. pulled the mind-bending espionage thriller "Tenet" from its August release calendar.
Liu Yifei in 'Mulan'.
Liu Yifei in 'Mulan'.Disney
/ Source: NBC News

Disney will indefinitely postpone the premiere of "Mulan" and push back the release of new installments in the "Avatar" and "Star Wars" film franchises, the studio announced Thursday, dealing another blow to pandemic-shuttered theaters.

The company, one of the pillars of the global entertainment business, said the decisions were made in response to theater closures and production shutdowns amid the coronavirus crisis.

"Over the last few months, it’s become clear that nothing can be set in stone when it comes to how we release films during this global health crisis, and today that means pausing our release plans for ‘Mulan’ as we assess how we can most effectively bring this film to audiences around the world," a Walt Disney Studios spokesperson said in a statement.

"Mulan," a live-action remake of the beloved 1998 animated film, was originally scheduled to debut on March 27 before it was moved to July 24 and then pushed to Aug. 21.

The move comes three days after Warner Bros. pulled the mind-bending espionage thriller "Tenet" from its August release calendar. The film, directed by Christopher Nolan, had been slated for Aug. 12 after being delayed twice.

The film exhibition business has struggled in recent months as public officials ordered the closure of theaters and major Hollywood studios signaled they would release more titles on at-home streaming platforms.

"Mulan" and "Tenet" were widely seen as bellwethers for Hollywood's attempts to begin a financial rebound. The leading studios rely on robust box-office grosses to turn a profit on big-budget projects. "Mulan" and "Tenet" each cost roughly $200 million to produce, according to widely reported estimates.

Disney said Thursday that the pandemic has forced the company to make "additional adjustments to our longer-term slate plans," including pushing future entries in the "Avatar" and "Star Wars" sagas back one year each.

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The sequel to "Avatar" (2009), for example, will now debut in 2022 instead of 2021, while the first installment in an untitled "Star Wars" series has shifted from 2022 to 2023.

"Mulan," directed by Niki Caro ("Whale Rider"), tells the tale of a young Chinese woman who disguises herself as a male warrior. It is the first major Disney movie featuring an all-Asian cast. The film drew controversy in August after its star, Chinese American actress Liu Yifei, suggested she supported the police crackdown on Hong Kong protesters.