Disney’s live-action remake Mulan is on track to have a lackluster premiere in China on Friday, a critical market for the movie that has been the source of political controversy involving the Chinese Communist Party.
Pre-sales for tickets totaled about 9.5 million yuan ($1.4 million) on Thursday, according to Maoyan Entertainment, which operates China’s largest online ticketing platform. Mulan sales are currently less than one-fifth that of the opening day local box-office sales for the sci-fi thriller Tenet, which Warner Bros. released in the country last week, according to Bloomberg.
The film, which is based on a Chinese folk song, was partially created to tap into the Chinese film market, which had been set to surpass the U.S. as the largest in the world before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
On Twitter, users have used the hashtag #boycottMulan to urge viewers to avoid the film, both for its involvement in the Xinjiang region — where more than a million Muslims, mostly of the Uyghur minority, have been imprisoned in concentration camps — and for star Liu Yifei’s support of police in Hong Kong last year at a time when Hong Kongers were protesting newly suggested policies that would allow citizens to be extradited to mainland China.
Disney recently revealed that some scenes were filmed in the Xinjiang region and also offered a special thanks to four Chinese Communist Party propaganda departments and a public security bureau in the region in the film’s credits.
Mulan‘s ties to China drew sharp criticism from U.S. lawmakers. Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) accused Disney of being “addicted to Chinese cash” in a tweet on Tuesday and said the company “will do just about anything to please the Communist Party.”
“This is evil behavior from a once-great American company,” Cotton wrote.
Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) sent Disney CEO Bob Chapek a letter with a list of nine questions, including if the company would be donating any of the movie’s profits to “organizations dedicated to fighting human trafficking and other atrocities” in China.
The film’s earlier release in the U.S. — Mulan began streaming on the company’s Disney+ platform for a fee of $30 last week — has allowed pirated copies to filter into China, allowing for user reviews ahead of the official debut.
The film had received more than 35,000 comments on China’s largest movie rating platform, Douban, as of early Thursday, with more than 70 percent of the posts offering negative reviews, according to Bloomberg. Only 13 percent of comments were positive.
Disney has continuously worked to please the CCP to gain access to the country’s market, behavior which was rewarded when China allowed Shanghai Disneyland to open in June 2016. Disney’s executive chairman Bob Iger called the park’s opening the “greatest opportunity the company has had since Walt Disney himself bought land in Central Florida.”
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