Even after eighteen months, the uncertainty caused by the pandemic has left the theatrical industry in a constant state of limbo. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Widow may have smashed records with an $80 million domestic debut and a global opening weekend of $215 million including Disney Plus Premier Access Sales, but it’s struggled to maintain that momentum ever since.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will play exclusively in cinemas for 45 days, but some fans aren’t willing to risk a trip to their local multiplex amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Destin Daniel Cretton’s movie is tracking for the MCU’s worst-ever domestic bow. It’s a sticky situation, and you can guarantee the Disney and Marvel money men will be keeping an eye on Shang-Chi‘s performance, especially when Chloe Zhao’s Eternals arrives just nine weeks later.
In a new interview, Kevin Feige was asked about the release model for the Academy Award winning Nomadland director’s cosmic epic, and while he outlined his and Zhao’s personal preferences, he didn’t go so far as to commit to whether or not Eternals might end up on Premier Access.
“I think a theater would be my preference and Chloe’s preference. We will see where we go with it. I love the movies. I love going to the movies. I love making movies for people to see in a shared environment in a theater together. To us, that’s what it’s about. The hybrid release can also be good, you want customers to have a choice. In this case, the choice is in theaters for 45 days. Here’s what I know: there’s an opening weekend, and you can go see a movie.”
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COVID-19 has completely upended the industry as we know it, but the good news is that studios, and in particular Disney, are still willing to green light sequels. Even if the opening installments haven’t flown anywhere near as high as they would during more certain and precedented times, they’re still on the table.
Cruella, Jungle Cruise and Free Guy all have second chapters in early development, which should bode well for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals regardless of how they perform at the box office, especially looking at how Black Widow became just the second MCU feature since 2012 to earn less than $600 million at the box office.