There’s no debating that Disney did the right thing for public safety by postponing its Mulan live-action remake until 2021. As schools, sports leagues, and entire cities across the U.S. take measures to protect Americans from the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, it makes sense that major movie studios are pushing back the release of their biggest blockbuster films. But Ranker data indicates that Mulan was headed for a tremendous performance at the box office before pushing back its March 27th premiere date, demonstrating just how catastrophic the impact of COVID-19 could be on the film industry.

Mulan

Mulan may not be a very risky venture for Disney, but the movie’s success at the box office is far from guaranteed, as some of the studio’s recent remakes have been less successful than others. A flat-out failure for Mulan isn’t very likely, but there is always a risk the box office results could be underwhelming. According to Ranker data, however, Mulan was on track for an opening weekend haul comparable to live-action remake successes like Aladdin, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast, making its postponement a particularly devastating blow for the company.

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We looked back to spring of last year, when Disney released two reboots with very different results: Dumbo in March 2019 and Aladdin in late May. Dumbo was far from a financial disaster, netting $352 million globally, but it was the first Disney remake to disappoint investors with less-than-exciting returns. Aladdin, on the other hand, has surpassed Disney’s wildest dreams with over a billion dollars grossed overall. We used our “Most Anticipated Movies Of Spring 2019” list to see just how excited Ranker readers were for each movie’s release, and the results made it clear why one soared while the other was just so-so.

Two weeks ahead of Mulan’s March 27th premiere, the movie is currently #2 on our list of the Most Anticipated Movies Of Spring 2020 (behind Wonder Woman 1984). That’s close to Aladdin’s trajectory, which was at #4 two weeks ahead of its release, while Dumbo was at #14 around the same time. And Ranker data shows that Mulan has held this position since December 2019, indicating fan anticipation is pretty high — the film’s lowest point ever was #4, and it took only two days for it to climb back up to the #2 spot (see below).

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This was by no means definitive proof that Mulan would have reaped more money than Aladdin. Though reader anticipation of Mulan is clearly higher than it is for most other movies on the list, that doesn’t necessarily translate to more theaters filling up in March, which is typically a slower month for the film industry. Still, it’s clear that the studio did not have another Dumbo on its hands, and that Mulan would have dominated the box office during an otherwise stagnant month for movies.

None of this means that Disney won’t eventually be able to recoup its losses in 2021, of course. But for those marketers who were successfully working to keep audiences excited for this late-March release, it can’t feel good to see all their effort go down the drain.