Screen News in Brief: there is no courage without fear

'Mulan's debut on Disney+ may change exhibition forever. 'Metro Sexual' sells to US, ABC announces bushfire drama series, and Screen QLD funds some enterprising businesses.

Mulan to bypass cinemas in key territories

  • Last week Disney announced it would bypass cinemas to release Mulan on Disney+ on September 4, for a once-off fee of $30 on top of the usual Disney subscription price. This will apply in countries including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and France.
  • The $200m live action remake of the 1988 animated musical is an epic reimagining of the story of Chinese folk legend Hua Man. Directed by New Zealander Niki Caro (Whale Rider) and starring Liu Yifei in the main role, the highly anticipated film was one of the great hopes for exhibitors coming out of lockdowns, but those hopes are dashed and now shift to Christopher Nolan’s Tenet which opens theatrically the same weekend, but is bound to be less of a crowdpleaser.
  • An online rental of $30 is a big investment. But Mulan is a family film after all, and once it’s purchased it will remain available on the streamer until the subscription is cancelled. Home-made popcorn and fizz are cheap.
  • As Indiewire noted ‘Disney+ now has 60 million subscribers worldwide, the majority in the U.S. If 10 million of those subscribers buy “Mulan,” that’s $300 million — and all revenue goes to Disney. The marketing model changes as well: This will be pushed on the streamer nonstop for the next month, at incremental cost.’ This could be the launch of the PVOD blockbuster era, and this could be more bleak news for cinemas. Watch this space.

Australian Films

  • Box Office: Babyteeth stable while Dare to Dream goes soppy.
  • Natalie Erika James’ hothic horror feature Relic is watchable now on Stan. In the US where it went out on 69 screens from 3 July, it’s currently number 15 in  limited release charts. Black Water Abyss, Andrew Traucki’s crocodile horror sequel to his 2007 film is also lurking out there and took $8000 on 15 Australian screens, which is not bad at all in the current climate.
  • Coming up ahead, we’re looking out for NZ film Lowdown Dirty Criminals (cinemas 20 August), I Am Woman (Stan, 28 August) and Kriv Stenders’ Slim & I (cinemas 10 September).

Web Series & Digital

 Sales & Development

  • Variety has reported that Metro Sexual, the first Australian sitcom with all LGBTIQ lead characters has landed multiple streaming arrangements in North America and will premiere in the US on September 1 on the free streaming service Crackle, and on Canada’s OUTtvGo and OUTtv’s Apple TV from the same date. Filmed in mockumentary style at a Sexual Health Clinic, the comedy stars Geraldine Hickey and Riley Nottingham. It’s produced by Queensland company Humdrum Comedy.  
  • The ABC has announced development is underway on a new six-part drama series The Fires, developed in conjunction with Tony Ayres Productions (TAP) which has an exclusive deal with NBCU. The Fires is a serialised anthology inspired by stories of the people who experienced last summer’s catastrophic fire season, with each episode based around character studies of ordinary people. Produced by Ayres, Liz Watts and Andrea Denholm, The Fires’ writing team is led by International Emmy Award-winning showrunner/writer Belinda Chayko (Stateless) and includes Jacquelin Perske (The Cry), Mirrah Foulkes (Judy and Punch), Steven McGregor (Mystery Road) and Anya Beyersdorf. Filming is planned for next year. 
  • Screen Australia has announced development funding for 42 projects, including 14 feature films, eight online projects and 20 television dramas. The projects that will share in $1.6 million of Story Development funding include: an animated series inspired by The Sapphires; Toni Collette’s directorial debut feature film The Best Of; and an anthology of Shakespeare’s works re-imagined by teams of creators including Leah Purcell, Elise McCredie and Anchuli Felicia King.

Queensland Screen Businesses receive support package

  • Eleven Queensland screen businesses will share in just under $1 million in Screen Queensland support to allow them to pivot and diversify in response to the pandemic. SQ Enterprise, a QLD Government initiative, was announced in April as a key component of the $3.3 million COVID-19 Support Package.
  • The SQ Enterprise recipients announced this week are: Alt.vfx; Biopixel (Cairns-based specialists in underwater and nature filming); Inkey Media (Dena Curtis’s company developing a slate of Aboriginal and female-led series for international market); John Cox’s Creature Workshop; Kiosk Films (transitioning from traditional TV to digital first content creation); Moving Floor (developing a late of international focused series); Myriad studios (expanding their unique location attraction series and launching a Virtual Scout App); and Orange Entertainment, the sister company of The Post Lounge, to grow their team.

Games News Galore

Documentary Cornered

  • Documentary and the wild, weird world of COVID-19. Feeling dull? A Wellness Roadshow webinar, AIDC podcasts, an online edition of the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers, and varied reactions to shooting in Wuhan. Docs can make your braincells dance.

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Rochelle Siemienowicz is a journalist for Screenhub. She is a writer, film critic and cultural commentator with a PhD in Australian cinema. She was the co-host of Australia's longest-running film podcast 'Hell is for Hyphenates' and has written a memoir, Fallen, published by Affirm Press. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram