Disney Boss Explains Why Black Widow and Shang-Chi Have Different Release Plans

By Savannah Sanders Updated:
Black Widow Shang Chi Marvel Studios logo

Marvel fans are thrilled that Black Widow is finally making its debut on July 9 after multiple COVID-related delays.

However, Disney's decision to release the film on Disney+ the same day as its theatrical release had led many to wonder what this could mean for future films.

On July 9, Disney+ subscribers will have the chance to watch Black Widow at home as a Premier Access option for a $30 premium, just as they did with Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon. 

However, not all films or Marvel films will be released with the Premier Access option, including Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings debuting in September.

So why Black Widow and not Shang-Chi? And what does this mean for future film releases? Disney is finally offering some answers.


Black Widow Eternals Shang-Chi

In a virtual appearance at J.P. Morgan’s 49th annual Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference via Deadline, Disney CEO Bob Chapek shared some insight into the company's strategy in releasing its upcoming films.

“There’s a whole bunch of data points we have to assimilate to make those decisions. The first consideration is, is it a big-tent theatrical franchise? If it is, something like a Marvel movie or a Lucas movie, something that’s going to have legs, plays into a larger mythology.”

Chapek pinpointed Black Widow to discuss Disney's decision to debut the Scarlett Johansson film both theatrically and on Disney+ Premiere Access saying they "didn't want to delay it again," but ahead of the decision they knew "that the domestic market was not coming back."

“We’ve already delayed Black Widow a couple of times, we didn’t want to delay it again. Yet, at the same time, we always knew there was a risk that exhibition wasn’t going to be fully developed or consumers wouldn’t want to go back and sit in theaters. So, we realized we had to sort of prime the pump and give theatrical exhibition a chance. We couldn’t put all of our eggs in the theatrical exhibition basket because we knew that in the weeks leading up to the decision that the domestic market was not coming back. And it’s still fairly weak. So, we’re very confident that we made the right call there.”

In regard to the new 45-day window agreed upon with exhibitors this fall for both Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, as well as the upcoming film Free Guy, Chapek shared the following:

“We know the marketplace will recover more fully and that will make more sense. Flexibility is a good thing. At some point you have to step off the dock and into the boat. Those, we will take a shot at.”


How audiences consume content had been changing long before COVID-19, but the pandemic certainly contributed to the rise of streaming while eliminating even the option of visiting theaters.

The problem for companies like Disney, and the theater industry as a whole, is that it's still too early to tell what determines an individual's decision to stay home or buy a ticket.

So far, Disney appears to be taking full advantage of the options streaming provides by testing the waters with Black Widow in theaters while also creating a revenue source with Disney+. 

The film's box office will certainly be a bellwether, but it won't be the only one. 

In fact, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings may be the best indicator. But that' not just because since it's a character's origin story, rooted in Marvel's Phase 4, and with a distant September release, but because a theater is a fan's only option to see it. 

While fans will be thrilled to see Shang-Chi finally join the MCU, the film may have just as much to say to whether audiences are actually interested in returning to theaters.

- In This Article: Black Widow
Release Date
July 09, 2021
- About The Author: Savannah Sanders
Savannah Sanders joined The Direct as a writer in 2020. In addition to writing for The Direct's Star Wars, Marvel, and DC teams, Savannah specializes in the relationship between Disney's blockbuster franchises and the Disney Parks.