Shang-Chi will be in theaters exclusively for at least 45 days. It’ll end up on Disney Plus eventually, but not for weeks.
Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings 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, Shang-Chi has hauled in more than $256 million in ticket grosses worldwide since it arrived on big screens Sept. 3. A major factor in that success was the film’s streaming strategy to, well, not stream at all.
Unlike other movies Disney has 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 accustomed to streaming same-day movies or for anyone nervous about packing into cinemas as the delta variant stokes a surge in COVID-19.
Can I stream Shang-Chi on Disney Plus?
Nope — on Sept. 3, it became available in theaters exclusively, which is a big change from Disney’s new normal during the pandemic. As cinemas shuttered or slashed capacity, Disney Plus became an outlet for the company to make movies available to wider audiences, especially as the stockpile of delayed films swelled.
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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.
But the delta variant has thrown a wrench in all the studios’ release plans, which they devised at the height of optimism about a box office recovery. Surveys indicated consumers are again feeling less comfortable going to the movies.
Within the mess of all those factors, Shang-Chi punched into theaters. It was the first Marvel movie released only in theaters since Sony’s Spider-Man: Far from Home came out in July 2019.
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.
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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.
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