Moviegoers are disappointed Disney won’t release Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access, saying it’s “not worth the risk” to see the Marvel movie on the big screen amid a new surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant. Disney CEO Bob Chapek confirmed during a third-quarter financial results conference call Thursday that 20th Century Fox’s Free Guy and Shang-Chi will open with 45 days of theatrical exclusivity unlike Marvel’s Black Widow, the Kevin Feige-led studio’s first day-and-date release that cost streaming subscribers $29.99 to unlock unlimited viewings on Disney+.
“We live in a very uncertain world in terms of the recovery of some of our markets, and the theatrical exhibition world is certainly a part of that,” Chapek told investors during Thursday’s call. “We said from the very beginning that we value flexibility and being able to make as last-minute calls as we can, given what we see in the marketplace. Certainly, when we planned our schedule that we’re executing right now, we did not anticipate — nor do I think anybody — the resurgence of Covid with a delta variant that would have such a significant impact on the marketplace.”
Chapek explained that the same pre-existing deal that sent Fox’s X-Men spin-off The New Mutants to HBO Max, not Disney+ or Hulu, is why Disney doesn’t “have the degree of freedom” to do a Premier Access release on Free Guy.
On Shang-Chi, set for September 3, the Disney CEO said the shortened 45-day exclusive theatrical window is “going to be an interesting experiment for us…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.”
Disney planned on opening Shang-Chi in “a much more healthy theatrical environment,” Chapek added of the much anticipated Asian-led superhero movie that, pre-pandemic, originally held a release date of February 12, 2021. Chapek went on to say that because of distribution agreements and “the impracticality of last-minute changes,” it “wouldn’t be possible” to give consumers the option to watch Shang-Chi at home on the same day it opens in theaters.
I’ve been to opening night of almost every @MarvelStudios movie but at this rate with COVID, I’m going to have to pass on #shangchi I don’t want to, I want to support more diversity in #Marvel, but I can’t risk it. Very disappointed in @Disney for not making it premier access
— Third String Star (@3rdStringStar) August 13, 2021
Not having that option has some Marvel moviegoers saying they’re going to skip Shang-Chi in theaters, choosing instead to wait until the 45-day exclusive theatrical window expires to watch from the comfort — and safety — of their own homes.
“I love the MCU, but I’m not going to the theaters next month when Shang-Chi comes out. I will be at home waiting for Disney+ release,” one fan tweeted in response to news Shang-Chi will be playing only in theaters on September 3. “No movie is worth it right now.”
Calling the theatrical-only release a “mistake,” another user tweeted: “I love going to the theater and I’m fully vaxxed, but it’s just not worth the risk right now. I watched Black Widow and Jungle Cruise on Disney+ and would have shelled out the $30 for Shang-Chi too. Instead, they’ll get nothing from me.”
Here’s what others are saying about Shang-Chi in theaters:
Keeping #ShangChi exclusively theatrical while Delta (and other variants) spreads would be really unethical by @WaltDisneyCo. Especially since kids under 12 cannot even be vaccinated. https://t.co/A77olESFhe
— Daniel Alter (@DAlter007) August 12, 2021
Starring Simu Liu, Tony Leung, Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu, and Ronny Chieng, Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens only in theaters on September 3.