Marvel‘s has become one of the biggest box-office success stories of the pandemic. Riding a wave of critical praise and buzz about its martial arts fight scenes, it’s hauled in more than $160 million worldwide in theaters in its first week on big screens, since Sept. 3. A major factor of that success was the film’s streaming strategy to… not stream at all.
Unlike other movies Disney released during the pandemic, Shang-Chi wasn’t available to stream on Disney Plus. While it surely helped bolster Shang-Chi‘s box office take, the strategy crimps options for fans who got used to streaming same-day movies or for anyone as the delta variant stokes a resurgence of COVID-19.
Is Shang-Chi streaming on Disney Plus?
No. It became available only in theaters Sept. 3.
The theatrical exclusive is a big change from Disney‘s new normal during the pandemic. As cinemas shuttered or slashed capacity, became an outlet for the company to make movies available to wider audiences, especially as the stockpile of delayed films swelled.
Some Disney movies — typically midbudget live-action movies and its latest Pixar films, Luca and Soul — skipped theaters entirely and were available to stream on Disney Plus at no extra cost. For the biggest films, Disney Plus introduced its Premier Access model to sell streaming access to new, big-screen movies. Disney Plus members could stream brand-new movies at home for a $30 fee on top of their subscription price, a model called Premier Access. Disney has released five movies this way, notably Marvel‘s Black Widow in July.
Then as vaccinations widened, Disney reintroduced plans for theatrical exclusives. The first movie to hit theaters this way was Free Guy, a video game comedy from Disney’s 20th Century Studios. It was released in cinemas Aug. 13, with a 45-day commitment to be available only in theaters.
When is Shang-Chi’s release date on Disney Plus?
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is expected to land on Disney Plus to stream in mid-October, likely at no added cost for subscribers.
However, Disney has repeatedly said it values flexibility above all else as it decides how to release films during the pandemic. The company hasn’t given a full-throated confirmation about exactly how Shang-Chi will be released on Disney Plus yet, so those expectation may change.
Shang-Chi is committed to being in theaters exclusively for at least 45 days. At that point, in mid-October, the movie is expected to reach Disney Plus. If Disney sticks to a 45-day theatrical window precisely, it would be Monday, Oct. 18. That’s much faster than Disney’s theatrical movies would hit the streaming service before the pandemic, when they typically took five to eight months to start streaming.
And Shang-Chi is expected to stream on Disney Plus then at no added cost, largely because Disney Plus has never charged a fee for anything on its service except for a brand-new movie. Every other $30 Premier Access release has been a film available in theaters and on Disney Plus the same day.
But again, these expectations are subject to change. Disney’s CEO indicated this release plan for Shang-Chi in mid-August. At the time, he emphasized the company’s commitment to a theatrical exclusive for Shang-Chi, but he was less concrete about what happens after the 45 days in theaters. He indicated Disney Plus was Shang-Chi’s destination after the 45-day window, all while reiterating that the company wants to stay flexible.
What is going to happen when the next Marvel movie, Eternals, comes out in November?
Disney hasn’t confirmed a streaming release date yet for Eternals, which is a star-packed Marvel movie scheduled to be released in theaters on Nov. 5. But here’s what we know, and some educated guesses about what to expect.
- Disney is planning for Eternals to be in theaters exclusively for at least 45 days when it first comes out, on Nov. 5.
- Disney Plus will be the only service that will (eventually) stream Eternals when it does become available for streaming, but we have no real guidance for when Eternals will stream on Disney Plus. It may come to Disney Plus immediately after the 45-day theatrical window, or it may take longer while Eternals is released as an online rental and in other formats first.
- Shang-Chi’s streaming timing may be a strong indicator of how Disney will approach Eternals’ streaming release plan. Shang-Chi is currently expected to reach Disney Plus immediately after its 45-day window of time in theaters, likely available to subscribers at no added cost — but it’s possible that could change.
The arrival of Eternals on Disney Plus could come 45 days after its theatrical release, or it could take many months. Before the pandemic, new Disney movies would make their way toabout five to eight months after they premiered in theaters. If Disney returns to that norm, it’s possible Disney Plus subscribers could be waiting until summer 2022 to start streaming Eternals.
We won’t know for certain until Disney confirms a streaming plan. And it won’t confirm an Eternals streaming plan until Disney can see how Shang-Chi fares, both in theaters and on Disney Plus.