Disney said that “Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings” and “Free Guy” will play exclusively in theaters for 45 days.
The decision to release the two films exclusively in theaters comes “amid recent signs of consumer confidence and cinema attendance,” CEO Bob Chapek said during an earnings call on Thursday.
The news comes just hours after the company said its blockbuster “Jungle Cruise” would debut in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on July 30. Disney has used a similar tactic for “Mulan” and “Raya and the Last Dragon” and plans to use it for the debut of the upcoming films “Cruella” and “Black Widow.”
“Free Guy,” a Ryan Reynolds feature, will hit theaters on August 13, while “Shang-Chi,” a new Marvel movie starring Simu Liu, is set to release on September 3.
“This is no doubt welcome news for theater owners in a world where shorter, but reasonable windows are no longer taboo,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice. Today’s news highlights an advantage of Disney’s case-by-case approach when it comes to short-term hybrid releases and long-term game plans by providing stability in expectations for the studio’s commitment to both the unique audience experience and the financial potential generated by theatrical exclusivity.”
Pandemic restrictions are being eased across the country as vaccination rates rise and Covid-19 cases decline. Notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that fully vaccinated people are not required to wear face masks in most environments. That recommendation should give the public more confidence about returning to normal operations and allow states to lift capacity restrictions in movie theaters.
About 90% of the movie theater market has reopened domestically, but that doesn’t mean all consumers are comfortable returning to movie theaters, Chapek said. He noted that last weekend’s box office was well below the level of recent years.
“So we know the market isn’t quite there yet,” added Chapek. “So the Disney Premier Access strategy, one of the things it’s giving us now… [is] that for those consumers who are still a little wary of going to a packed theater, that they can watch it from the safety and convenience of their home.”