Disney is set to release “Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings” in cinemas on September 3rd, and while the Delta variant continues to cause mayhem, many had thought Disney might make a last-minute change and release the film on Disney+ Premier Access in addition to cinemas.
Last month, Disney released Marvel’s “Black Widow” on Disney+ Premier Access, in addition to in cinemas, which pulled in over $60 million on Disney+ Premier Access alone. Leading many to speculate that Disney will do the same with “Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings”.
During a quarterly investors call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek confirmed that the film would remain exclusive to cinemas for 45 days because it’s too late to change plans due to contracts made earlier this year. Bob said:
On Shang-Chi, we think it’s actually going to be an interesting experiment for us because it’s got only a 45-day window for us. So the prospect of being able to take a Marvel title to service after going theatrical with 45 days will be yet another data point to inform our actions going forward on our titles. But once again, I’ll refer back to my previous answer. When we plan Shang-Chi that title was planned on being in a much more healthy theatrical environment. And at this point, unfortunately, due to distribution agreements that we have and due to just the practicalities of last-minute changes, it wouldn’t be possible.
While “Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings” can’t go to Disney+ Premier Access, Bob Chapek did state that had he known what he knows now. He wouldn’t have made it a 45-day theatrical exclusive release.
So at some point, we have to put a stake in the ground and say, for example, Shang-Chi, that’s going to be a title that we’re going to put in the marketplace or Free Guy. That’s going to be a title that we’re going to put into the marketplace. Not knowing, again, three months earlier when you make that commitment, what exactly the marketplace is going to look like. But what I do think that says, Michael, it says that we value flexibility and we value to follow where the consumer is going to go.
And while some of that’s uncertain, I think in terms of relative to where the rest of the market is, you see that we’ve got more flexibility in terms of how we program. And nothing is in stone because the marketplace is rapidly changing. But at some point, you’ve got to put a stake in the ground and say, this is what we’re going to do and that’s where we ended up on Shang-Chi and Free Guy, which are our next two titles out.
It certainly feels like Bob Chapek made a mistake in saying the film would be exclusive to cinemas, because earlier in the year, there was lots of excitement over everything going back to normal. This is one reason why Disney is keeping its cards close to its chest with regards to future releases and will be looking at the release of each movie going forward, on a film by film basis.
Disney is releasing 20th Century Studios “Free Guy” in cinemas today, but because the film was made before Disney purchased 20th Century Fox, there are existing contracts in place, such as with HBO, who have the Pay 1 window rights to the film, which have restricted Disney’s options for a hybrid release.
Bob Chapek didn’t directly say the film will be going to Disney+ after 45 days but said the film’s release will be an experiment. Paramount is sending new films directly to its streaming service, Paramount+, 45 days after release. The movie could still be released on digital platforms to purchase and rent, before going to all Disney+ subscribers. I’m awaiting clarification on if “Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings” will go to Disney+ after the 45-day exclusive window.
What do you think of “Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings” staying as a cinema exclusive?
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.