It appears that Disney can file the experimental release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as a success. After flirting with hybrid releases for several of its films earlier this year, Disney has found a reason to go back to its previous arrangement. Of course, by this, we mean the $150 million that the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film pulled in at the global box office.
Because of Shang-Chi's local and international success, Disney is making changes to its release strategy for the rest of the year.
Which Disney films will become exclusive to theaters this 2021?
Walt Disney Studios initially decided to take advantage of Disney+ Premiere Access during the premieres of Black Widow, Cruella, and Jungle Cruise. Perhaps due to the ensuing backlash that this decision caused, which resulted in an ongoing legal battle between Scarlet Johansson and Disney, Disney decided to try other things. Now that its alternative has proven to be even more viable, the studio has confirmed that the remainder of its major movies this 2021 will release exclusively in theaters.
According to THR, Marvel's Eternals and Steven Spielberg's adaptation of West Side Story will remain exclusive in theaters for 45 days. Meanwhile, the upcoming Disney Animated film, Encanto, will get a 30-day run in theaters. After this, all three films will be available for streaming, which is a strategy that's not unlike what other Hollywood executives have employed.
At the moment, Marvel's Eternals is set to premiere on November 5 followed by Encanto on Thanksgiving week, and finally West Side Story on December 10.
It's interesting to see how Hollywood executives are adjusting their release schedules and strategies. Clearly, everyone is playing it safe with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging on. Even Universal, who was one of the few major studios to strictly adhere to theater-exclusive releases, went ahead and released some of its films on its streaming service, Peacock. In fact, the twelfth installment in the Halloween franchise, Halloween Kills, is headed both on Peacock and in theaters at the same time on October 15, 2021.
Maybe this change in plans is enough to make Warner Bros. think of doing the same thing as well. The studio has strictly held to its hybrid release of movies on HBO Max and theaters for 2021. Despite the financial outcome of James Gunn's The Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. is sticking to its guns. Only time will tell if this will pay off once Dune and The Matrix Resurrections premiere later this year.
Speaking of changes, Sony's strategy appears more flexible. After delaying Venom: Let There Be Carnage multiple times, Sony has moved the film's premiere date up by two weeks.
With that said, Disney's bet on its next three big films could end up paying off big time for them. Marvel's Eternals feature an ensemble cast that includes the likes of Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek. If even just the upcoming MCU film brings forth the same box office numbers as Shang-Chi, then we can expect Disney to continue releasing more of its future movies exclusively in theaters.