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Disney Plus Premier Access: Everything you need to know

Mulan on Disney Plus Premier Access
"Mulan" is the first movie to hit the "Premier Access" side of Disney Plus. (Image credit: WhatToWatch.com)

First there was Disney Plus. Now, there's Disney+ Premier Access. The streaming service has come a long way since its launch in November 2019, garnering some 100 million subscribers globally in its first year..

And it's just getting started.

Meanwhile, the global pandemic of 2020 shook up the entire entertainment industry, and that impact is still being felt in 2021. Not only were films in production forced to shut down, but films already slated for release were faced with a an existential question: Postpone indefinitely until theaters reopen? Or find an alternative (and less lucrative) avenue for release.

The answer to that problem has been "why not both?" Some movies are holding out for the big screen. Others shifted strategies and are going digital first. We saw that in 2021 with releases like the Hamilton movie, Trolls World Tour and Artemis Fowl.

And starting with the live-action remake of Mulan in September 2020, Disney+ has ushering in the next step for its fledgling service — Premier Access. It's simultaneously simple, and confusing. (Welcome to the wonderful world of streaming entertainment, folks.)

We're here to straighten that out for you, though. Here's everything you need to know about Disney Plus Premier Access.

What is Disney Plus Premier Access?

First off, it's Premier Access, not Premiere Access. Those are two different words with two different meanings — even though they're both in the same ballpark for our purposes, and they'll even overlap a bit.

In the case of Disney+, it means a higher level of access — one that will let you watch a piece of content on Disney+, provided that you pay an additional fee for that piece of content. It's not a higher subscription level — just a name for content that floats above everything you get with a normal Disney+ subscription.

You'll need a Disney+ subscription to get in the door, and then you'll need to pay $30 on top of that to watch what ever film it is that's on Premier Access. Note that this isn't some higher tier of Disney+ subscription. Paying $30 now a film on Premier Access doesn't get you more movies later. It's a la carte.

And this scheme isn't new. It's exactly what ESPN+ (which also is owned by Disney and in fact is using the exact same underlying tech to serve you video) is doing for UFC pay-per-view events. You need an ESPN+ subscription, and then you'll pay separately for each UFC PPV fight you want to see. 

So Premier Access is early access? 

Pretty much. The way Premier Access (at least initially) is intended to work is that it's a way for Disney to charge more for special content before it hits Disney+ proper. 

There's a little wordplay going on here, though. We'll use the first Premier Access release — Mulan — as an example. Disney said that "with Premier Access, you can watch Mulan before it's available to all Disney+ subscribers." And that means that Premier Access is temporary. A film that starts out there won't stay there forever. In the case of Mulan, it was about 90 days. After that, it hit the general population of movies available to everyone on Disney+.

Same goes for other releases, like Raya and the Last Dragon. It started on Disney+ Premier Access on March 4, then drops off and will be available to anyone with a subscription on June 4 — that's another 90-day window.

What movies are on Premier Access?

As the name implies, Premier Access is "premier." It's special. No not every film will get a Premier Access release. In fact, the list is pretty small. Here's what's been on Premier Access — and what we know is coming in the future:

  • Mulan (now on Disney+ proper)
  • Raya and the Last Dragon (leaving Premier Access on June 4, 2021)
  • Cruella (Available on Premier Access on May 28)
  • Black Widow (In theaters and on Premier Access on July 9, 2021)
  • Jungle Cruise (In theaters and on Premier Access on July 30, 2021)

How do you get Premier Access?

Premier Access is a separate fee, and Disney says you'll be able to pay that toll "on disneyplus.com and select platforms, including Apple, Google, and Roku."

So you're able to pay the $29.99 for Mulan on Disney's website, as well as through Google Play (presumably on Android phones and tablets, as well as on Android TV), or in the Disney+ app on your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV, and on a Roku player or Roku TV.

Will Premier Access always be $30?

So far, yes. Every release via Premier Access has cost an extra $30. 

Do I 'own' the movie if I pay the $30?

Not really. Disney says you can continue to watch the Premier Access title for as long and as many times as you want once you've paid the Premier Access toll — "as long as you are an active Disney+ subscriber." 

Note how that neatly covers content that lives on Premier Access as well as if it's released to the general population of Disney+ content. 

But the short version is so long as you're paying for Disney+ and you've already paid the Premier Access fee for a given piece of content, you can watch it.

Phil Nickinson

Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for AndroidCentral.com and Mobile Nations, is the Dad part of Modern Dad, and is editor of WhatToWatch.com.