Releasing a movie to theaters in the pandemic is a risky move for a number of reasons that go from the safety of audiences to box office success. Disney has run into issues with duel releases between the theater and Disney Plus. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige was asked by Variety about the release of Eternals as the director Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) and Feige were both at the red carpet premiere for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the latest release for the studio as it hits theaters on September 3. To him, it is all about the theatrical experience, but anything can happen as he said, “we will see where we go with it.” It sounds like right now, the studio doesn’t view their current release plan for Eternals as set in stone.
Shang-Chi will be Marvel and Disney’s first movie to hit theaters then come to the streaming service 45 days after its release. Clearly, the studio is experimenting with how it wants to release movies during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has worsened with the rise of the Delta variant. You can see Kevin Feige responding to questions about Eternals below.
Everything is about money, so it will depend on how Marvel’s Shang-Chi performs with this new plan. Previously, the studio released Black Widow simultaneously in theaters and on Disney Plus. That ran into issues as it still underperformed due to the pandemic, and it broke the studio’s agreement with Scarlett Johansson (Avengers: Infinity War, Endgame), who sued the Mouse for this decision. To avoid any other legal issues and in hopes to find the balance, a new idea was hatched that begins with Legend of the Ten Rings and Ryan Reynolds’ Free Guy.
Kevin Feige also told Variety about his love for movies, from making them to watching them. This led to him talking about the hybrid release with Shang-Chi. He noted that while he prefers a “shared environment,” he also wants audiences to “have the choice” when watching a movie. A big spectacle like a Marvel movie should be seen on the big screen for the full effect, but audiences need to think about safety and do what’s most comfortable for them. He recognizes that, and it could translate further as his team and Disney observe the situation around the world.
Eternals will mark a major shift in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the introduction of the ensemble roster of powerful characters who change the game of what has been known in the franchise so far. Stylistically it will be different too, as Chloe Zhao wanted real locations to shoot in and a smaller crew, similar to her other projects like the Oscar-winning film Nomadland. The on-location shots were so impressive that Kevin Feige had to convince Disney executives that there were no special effects in those test shots.
Disney has been releasing most of its slate for this year in theaters and for $30 on Disney Plus. Black Widow and Jungle Cruise were some of the biggest examples of this strategy. Marvel has two more blockbusters after Shang-Chi with Eternals on November 5 and Spider-Man: No Way Home on December 17, which as of now are scheduled for theatrical showings and no at-home viewing options. At this rate, anything is possible for what is to come, and Shang-Chi will be the example that the company will look at when making its plans for the rest of the year, and even in 2022 as the pandemic will likely last to that point.