After multiple delays, Marvel finally elected to release Black Widow simultaneously in both theaters and on Disney Plus this July, but it’s a move that’s come back to bite them. Star Scarlett Johansson is suing the company, alleging that the streaming release breached her contract. Sure enough, Marvel won’t be pulling the same strategy with September’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which will open exclusively in cinemas.
However, this has resulted in clapback from fans instead, with many criticizing the decision as a dangerous one given the rise in COVID-19 Delta variant cases. What’s more, the recent disappointing performance of DC blockbuster The Suicide Squad shows that even superhero movies just aren’t netting huge profits at the box office right now. Given all this, it’s believed Marvel could return to the dual release model following Shang-Chi.
Variety spoke with Jeff Bock, an industry analyst for Exhibitor Relations, who revealed that he thinks we’ll be seeing more MCU films end up on Disney Plus Premier Access, certainly until the pandemic has been eradicated and very possibly after, too.
“Obviously, Disney wants [Shang-Chi] to be a huge success, but in terms of what audiences want, I just don’t personally see the numbers,” Bock explained. “From what I think we all heard from the brass at Disney, they’re going to continue to play what works best for Disney after Shang-Chi. I think they’re going to continue to go with [Premier Access] until the pandemic is eradicated — and even then, I don’t know that they will completely change.”
Bock also explained that he thinks we need to compare Marvel’s current slate of releases to the films of Phase 1, in terms of their financial gain, rather than the heights of late Phase 3. He said that both the industry and fans should “think in terms of the expectations for Iron Man or even Captain America or Thor.” This adds up as 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, for instance, grossed $370 million globally. Black Widow has currently earned just below that, at $368 million.
By the sounds of it, then, Marvel/Disney will reevaluate what’s best for November’s Eternals following Shang-Chi‘s exclusively theatrical release. If it manages acceptable business, then they may repeat the trick for Chloe Zhao’s ensemble flick. If, and this seems more likely, it doesn’t, then they could switch back to the Black Widow strategy and debut it on Premier Access. Though they might want to double-check the movie’s stars are OK with it this time.