Disney Commits to 45-Day Window of Theatrical Exclusivity for Free Guy, Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi: Copyright ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved; Free Guy: Photo by Alan Markfield. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Following Disney’s announcement earlier today that Jungle Cruise will be released day-and-date in theaters and on Disney Plus on July 30, 2021, CEO Bob Chapek shared in a call with investors that 20th Century’s Free Guy and Marvel Cinematic Universe entry Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will both receive 45 days of theatrical exclusivity before heading to the streaming platform.

The move marks something of a departure from Disney’s decisions of late regarding theatrical distribution; 2021 releases Cruella and Black Widow will, like Jungle Cruise, be available day-and-date on Disney plus for a $29.99 fee, while Pixar’s Luca is abandoning a theatrical release entirely in favor of an exclusive bow on Disney Plus. In committing to 45 days of theatrical exclusivity for Free Guy and Shang-Chi, Chapek cited “increased consumer confidence in moviegoing.”

Free Guy and Shang-Chi will come out on August 13, 2021 and September 3, 2021, respectively.

As to their decision-making process regarding other upcoming films, Chapek noted that Disney will “continue to watch the evolution of the recovery of the theatrical marketplace, and we’ll use that flexibility to make the right call at the right time.” The studio’s strategy of releasing films day-and-date makes sense now, he argued, given the current state of box office recovery, citing that last weekend’s box office was 85 percent lower domestically than the average of the last three years of pre-Covid box office.

“We know the market’s not quite there yet,” said Chapek. “The Disney Premier Access strategy—one of the things it gives us right now, and we’re grateful for this, is the ability to go ahead and try to release things into the market and try to re-prime the pump, if you will. But at the same time, [to] know 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.”

Disney was one of the five studios to sign a deal with Cinemark, announced last week, allowing Cinemark to play those studios’ films theatrically. The terms of the deals made between Cinemark and the five studios—also including Sony, Paramount, Universal, and Warner Bros.—have not been made public.

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