Is Marvel’s ‘Shang-Chi’ the Next Disney Film to Be Delayed Because of the Coronavirus?

Not only does every day bring some piece of news about the coronavirus (COVID-19), but some news of a movie and/or TV show shutting down production to help halt the spread. It looked like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings would not only be subject to that halt, but one of its key figures had concerns about actually catching the virus. 

That’s director Destin Daniel Cretton, who got good news and bad news this week. The good news is, he doesn’t have the virus. The bad news is, production is still ceasing on multiple Marvel projects, throwing Marvel’s release schedule into a world of uncertainty that would surely make Thanos chuckle.

What happened on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings?

Kevin Feige and Destin Daniel smiling on stage
President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige and director Destin Daniel Cretton of Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings at the San Diego Comic-Con International 2019 | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Last week, before the wave of movie theater closures, the news that Cretton was concerned that he might have the virus. According to Screen Rant, Cretton was advised by a doctor to undergo self-quarantine so he could be tested, especially since he had a new baby. This resulted in the first unit of the film being shut down. The first unit is the one that works with the primary actors and the director, whereas the second unit in a Marvel movie helps craft the action sequences or scenes that don’t need the main actors. 

According to Deadline, Cretton ultimately tested negative for the virus. Trying to shine a positive light on such a trying situation, he said: 

“During my weekend of isolation away from my family, I had a lot of time to ponder this interesting moment in history that our second child was born into, a time full of opinions and division, where scientific truths are debated and brushed off as political spins. But in the midst of this storm, while staring up at a spot on my hotel ceiling that I swear looked exactly like a bunny, I could see something really quite beautiful happening. People all around the world are beginning to realize how connected we are, how vulnerable we are, how much we need each other to survive.”

Disney is delaying release dates and film shoots left and right

While Cretton’s remarks are a welcome respite from one headline after another of bad news, the damage from the shutdown will linger. Disney had already delayed the Chinese release of its Mulan remake when the virus was peaking there. Arguably that and Black Widow are its two highest-profile releases after a banner 2019 when Disney had one blockbuster after another, from Captain Marvel to Avengers: Endgame, to Toy Story 4, to The Lion King, and to The Rise of Skywalker.

Having front-loaded 2019 so much, Disney doesn’t have a ton of high-profile releases left for this year. The expensive Call of the Wild  lost a great deal of money, and Pixar’s Onward had a slow start at the box office even before the movie theater shutdowns kicked in. Now, Disney has delayed everything on its schedule up until the end of May, including the already long-delayed The New Mutants and the Amy Adams thriller The Woman in the Window.

Some have argued Disney could recoup by putting its movies on Disney+, as it did for Frozen II, or early sale, as Disney did for The Rise of Skywalker. However, both of those movies already made a profit in theatrical release, so Disney had less to lose by making those available. Not so much for Onward and obviously not for Black Widow, which was due out May 1 and has been postponed indefinitely. 

Could Disney/Marvel shift its entire release schedule?

One of Marvel’s greatest benefits is the inter-connectivity of its movies could prove to be an Achilles heel in the pandemic. The Marvel releases for the rest of this year are The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, The Eternals, and WandaVision. Kevin Feige and others made a big deal out of the movies connecting to the TV shows, with WandaVision and Loki leading into the Doctor Strange sequel next year. 

So does Black Widow lead into The Falcon and the Winter Soldier somehow? Or maybe The Eternals in November? Since Black Widow has to move, that might mean everything, including Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is currently due next February, has to move. Complicating the matter is that production was halting for the TV shows too.

Cretton is trying to stay positive nonetheless, urging fans to hunker down: “Please stay hopeful, please stay humble, please stay home. Social distancing is an act of love for yourself, your family, and for every person on this planet,”