Could Shang-Chi's delayed release on Disney Plus affect it at the box office?

The official logo for Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
(Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is coming to Disney Plus in mid-October – but its delayed release on the streamer could still impact its box office performance.

Speaking during the company's Q3 earnings calls on August 12 (per Deadline), Disney CEO Bob Chapek revealed that Marvel's Shang-Chi would arrive on Disney Plus 45 days after its September 3 theatrical release.

Dubbed an "interesting experiment" by Chapek, Shang-Chi will forego the day-and-date simultaneous release that Black Widow had back in July – but will it work?

Initially, Shang-Chi was supposed to launch exclusively in theaters on September 3. However, with Covid cases spiralling in parts of the world as a result of surging Delta variant cases, Disney has taken the decision to bring the Marvel movie to its streaming platform.

Its Disney Plus arrival, though, won't come until mid-October. Chapek cited the "practicality of last-minute changes" (per Collider), due to exclusivity deals it already had in place with theater chains for Shang-Chi, as a primary reason behind the entertainment giant's decision.

Elaborating on Shang-Chi's unusual releases schedule (via, Chapek said: "[It's]going to be an interesting experiment for us... The prospect of being able to take a Marvel title to the service [Disney Plus] after going theatrical for 45 days will be yet another data point to inform our actions going forward on our titles."

It seems, then, that Disney doesn't want to risk further bad blood developing between itself and theatre chains. 

In the wake of Black Widow's poor second week box office haul, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) slammed Disney's decision to simultaneously release the Marvel film in theaters and on Disney Plus – a choice that NATO claimed was a major cause behind Black Widow's huge box office slump.

So it appears that the decision over Shang-Chi's delayed Disney Plus launch is two-fold: appeasing theatre owners by enabling them to make as much money from ticket sales during a six-week exclusivity period, and allowing Disney to see if audiences prefer a 45-day theatrical release window (and subsequently delayed Disney Plus launch) over a day-and-date release schedule.

The problem with the latter, though, is that Marvel fans (and cinemagoers in general) are already making the decision to catch Shang-Chi on Disney Plus in October instead of seeing it on the big screen.

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Following the announcement that Shang-Chi will come to Disney Plus six weeks after its theatrical release, fans took to social media to state that they'll wait for it to land on the streamer in order to check it out.

It's an understandable stance to take, particularly in the US where Delta variant cases are rising rapidly. Sure, some Marvel fans run the risk of having Shang-Chi ruined for them if they wait but, if viewers feel unsafe going to the theater while Covid cases are climbing, it's likely that many will wait for it to land on Disney Plus (and mute specific words on social media to stave off spoilers).

Will Shang-Chi's delayed Disney Plus launch affect its box office performance then? In our view, yes.

The movie arrives on Labor Day for US audiences, so it should perform well over a holiday weekend (as well as selling plenty of tickets at the global box office). 

Given that it'll be available for free in the homes of Disney Plus subscribers just 45 days after its theatrical release, though, we suspect that lots of Marvel fans will wait to watch it in October – and that will be another big blow for the theater industry and, by proxy, Marvel's and Disney's profit margins.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.

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