Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings debuted in theaters on Friday. The film has been riding a wave of critical praise and already has great reviews from audiences as well. However, the only way to see Shang-Chi right now is to make the trek to theaters. Unlike Black Widow and many other Disney movies, Shang-Chi will not be available on Disney+ Premier Access. If you still aren't comfortable going back to theaters yet, but want to see Shang-Chi, you'll have to wait a minute. But not as long as usual.
Shang-Chi is expected to land on Disney+ in mid-October. Disney is adopting a 45-day exclusive theatrical window for this movie, similar to what Paramount has been doing with their movies. When Shang-Chi drops on the service, it will most likely be free with a subscription to Disney+. This is a much shorter wait than films like Cruella and Raya and the Last Dragon, which did premiere with Disney+ Premier Access for $30, but were not free on the service for at least 3 months.
Disney has been experimenting with many different release strategies since the beginning of the pandemic. Other Disney films, including Pixar's most recent films, Soul and Luca, premiered on Disney+ for no added charge. The Disney+ Premier Access has had mixed results for the company. Some films like Black Widow did pretty well at both the box office and through Premier Access, however, others like Mulan and Cruella didn't fare as well.
Shang-Chi also serves as a blueprint for Disney and possibly other studios going forward. This is the first Marvel outing to be released exclusively in movie theaters since Sony's Spider-Man: Far From Home. Shang-Chi's box office results could affect Disney's release schedule going forward. Marvel still has Eternals and Sony's Spider-Man: No Way Home set to come out this year and if Shang-Chi struggles, we could see these movies get delayed.
According to Deadline, Shang-Chi, "is in store for a Labor Day opening weekend record of $45M-$50M at 4,200+ theaters." This shatters the opening weekend for a movie released on Labor Day weekend, the previous record being held by Rob Zombie's Halloween ($30.6 million). This is still an underwhelming performance for a Marvel movie, but it's still much better than the opening weekends for many movies since the pandemic. So far, the biggest openings since the pandemic have been Fast 9 ($70 million) and Black Widow ($80.4 million).
Worldwide, it's harder to project how Shang-Chi will do as the film still does not have a release date in China. China is a huge market for movies, especially Marvel movies. According to CNBC, China "was the second-largest box office in the world" before the pandemic. Shang-Chi has still not been approved by the Chinese government and it's impossible to know when it could get that approval.
The pandemic's damage on the box office has forced many studios to experiment with their own streaming services and shorten theatrical windows. Similar to Paramount and Warner Bros, Disney is moving towards a 45-day theatrical window, beginning with Shang-Chi. So, it won't be on Disney Plus for now, but it's coming sooner rather than later. This news originated at CNET.com.