Simu Liu stars as Shang-Chi in Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
Disney said “Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings” and “Free Guy” will play exclusively in theaters for 45 days.
The decision to release the two movies exclusively in theaters comes “amidst recent signs of consumer confidence and moviegoing,” said CEO Bob Chapek during an earnings call Thursday.
The news comes just hours after the company said its blockbuster film “Jungle Cruise” would debut in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on July 30. Disney has used a similar tactic for “Mulan” and “Raya and the Last Dragon” and plans to use it for the debut of the upcoming films “Cruella” and “Black Widow.”
“Free Guy,” a Ryan Reynolds feature, is slated to hit theaters Aug. 13, while “Shang-Chi,” a new Marvel film starring Simu Liu, is slated for Sept. 3.
“Without a doubt, this is welcome news for theater owners in a world where shorter, but reasonable, windows are no longer taboo,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice. “Today’s news emphasizes an upside to Disney’s case-by-case approach when it comes to short-term hybrid releases and long-term game plans by providing stability in expectations for the studio’s commitment to both the unique audience experience and the financial potential generated by theatrical exclusivity.”
Pandemic restrictions are loosening around the country as vaccination rates rise and the number of Covid-19 cases declines. Notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear face masks in most settings. That recommendation should help give the public more confidence about returning to normal activities and allow states to lift capacity restrictions at movie theaters.
Around 90% of the movie theater market place is reopened domestically, but that doesn’t mean that all consumers are comfortable returning to cinemas, Chapek said. He noted that last weekend’s box office was well below the levels of years past.
“So, we know the market’s not quite there yet,” Chapek added. “So, the Disney Premier Access strategy, one of the things it gives us right now … [is] that for those consumers that are a little leery still about going into a packed theater, that they can go ahead and watch it in the safety and convenience of their home.”