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Will Success of ‘Shang-Chi’ Affect How Disney & Its Competitors Distribute Films?

Jeff Kotuby

Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been a commercial and critical success since releasing last weekend as a theatrical-only release, generating $75 million across a three-day period. The film has been heralded by many as a sign that theaters are back and the “day-and-date” streaming releases will be a thing of the past.

A report published by Variety even says Shang-Chi will affect the way Disney distributes their films. But it absolutely should not — and here’s why.

Shang-Chi’s release was a perfect storm of multiple factors coming together to create a wildly successful opening weekend. The film had so much going for it that other films don’t, and to ignore the signs could be catastrophic for their success. Among the positives Shang-Chi had going into its release are things like:

  • Tons of advertising dollars pumped into it
  • Being a Marvel title (a new IP at that) in a post-Avengers era
  • Releasing ONLY in theaters on a holiday weekend
  • Rising Delta variant numbers that may have negatively impacted extended travel
  • A charismatic lead actor that spoke out against Disney's CEO over comments made on a conference call
  • That the film is really, really good

However, Disney and its competitors would be wise to wait for Shang-Chi’s second-week numbers before making a decision on any of its upcoming films, especially after seeing Black Widow's massive drop-off from week 1 to week 2. Black Widow took a 67% dive in box office sales during its second weekend, though the film was released simultaneously on (Disney+ $) which may have contributed to the fall.

Speaking of Black Widow and simultaneous releases, Disney may try to avoid live-action films coming to Disney+ due to the ongoing legal saga between itself and Black Widow lead actress Scarlett Johansson, who sued the company due to what her team is calling, “breach of contract.”

For Disney, their upcoming slate consists of another Marvel film, Eternals, releasing only in theaters this November but also some non-Marvel films, like West Side Story and The King's Man, though both films won’t release until December (barring any delays.) We likely won’t see these films head to Disney+ to prevent another Johansson situation, but we could see animated films on Disney’s docket head to Disney+ — in some cases exclusively.

Moving animated films to digital-only paid off for Boss Baby 2 and Trolls 2 at the start of the pandemic, and could be something Disney tries to harness as well. Regardless, it doesn’t seem like Disney is completely done with Premier Access or streaming releases just yet.

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