Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is set to be the second movie in the massive Phase 4 slate of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the main topic of discussion among fans right now is the film's exclusive theatrical release amid the current surge of the Delta variant of COVID-19 worldwide.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way fans and press watch movies, with studios like Disney and Warner Bros. maximizing their respective streaming mediums to give audiences options on how to experience their big-budget releases. For starters, Black Widow became the first MCU title to receive a hybrid streaming and theatrical release worldwide, and it seems that the experiment worked due to the fact that it earned record-breaking numbers during a pandemic-infused debut.
However, there was a downside to Black Widow's Premiere Access release. Scarlett Johansson was reported to have filed a lawsuit against Disney due to contractual disputes over the film's streaming release. This is further amplified by the report that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige was said to be "angry and embarrassed" by the whole Johansson-Disney fiasco.
Looking ahead, the attention has shifted to Shang-Chi, especially now that the film is weeks away from its highly-anticipated theatrical release. Disney previously confirmed that the Simu Liu-led Marvel film will have an exclusive theatrical window of 45 days.
Despite that confirmation, there has been speculation that Shang-Chi will receive a similar Premiere Access treatment due to the concerns surrounding the Delta Variant, especially now that Venom: Let There Be Carnage has been delayed to October 15, 2021.
Now, Disney has shed some light on the subject matter.
SHANG-CHI WILL STAY IN THEATERS
During Disney's Q3 Investor Call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek confirmed that Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings will stick to its exclusive theatrical release amid the Delta Variant surge worldwide.
While Chapek pointed out that they didn't expect the surge, the head executive explained that they have to "put a stake in the ground" for films like Shang-Chi and Free Guy.
"At some point, we have to put a stake in the ground, and say, Shang-Chi, that's a title we're going to put into the marketplace, or Free Guy, that's a title we're going to put into the marketplace."
Chapek continued by saying that Shang-Chi would be an "interesting experiment" for the House of Mouse, admitting that it will be yet "another data point" to inform the company's actions going forward.
The head of Disney also took note of the fact that the Disney+ Premiere Access release for Marvel Studios' next movie is "not possible" due to "distribution agreements" currently in place and "the practicality of making last-minute changes."
"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 the service after going theatrical for 45 days will be yet another data point to inform our actions going forward on our titles. And again, when we planned 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 the practicality of making last-minute changes, it wouldn't be possible."
SHANG-CHI'S THEATRICAL RELEASE EXPLAINED
Many would agree that Disney's latest confirmation about Shang-Chi's theatrical release is a positive development from a movie-going experience standpoint, but it's worth pointing out that there are still concerns regarding the health and safety of everyone.
Bob Chapek's comments about putting a stake in the ground for big-budget movies like Shang-Chi and Free Guy are understandable, and this goes to show that the House of Mouse has strong faith that these projects will have a solid performance at the box office.
While it's true that Shang-Chi was envisioned for a theatrical release during a time when many expected that things would slowly go back to normal, it's also a known fact that the worldwide pandemic has an unexpected nature, as evidenced by the emergence of the Delta Variant that is causing havoc in many territories. Still, Chapek's explanation about "distribution agreements" and "practicality of making last-minute changes" should at least soften the blow of the theatrical release confirmation.
It will be interesting to find out how Shang-Chi's release will impact other films like Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home moving forward. At this stage, it looks like Shang-Chi will be the determining factor for whether other MCU films will stick to an exclusive theatrical release or a hybrid distribution will be in the cards once again.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is set to release in theaters on September 3, 2021.