Will Marvel’s ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Still Release in Theaters?

Marvel fans faced a full year without any fresh content in 2020. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, no Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies or shows released that year. Phase 4 of the MCU finally seems back on track. Several new shows have debuted on Disney+, and Black Widow finally made it to theaters. Now all eyes are on whether Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will hold on to its own release date.

‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ star Simu Liu stands onstage
Simu Liu | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ hits theaters on Sept. 3, 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was originally set to hit theaters in February 2021. But the pandemic shifted everything around. Disney pushed director Destin Daniel Cretton’s film three more times before finally landing on a Sept. 3, 2021 release date. In the process, the movie was moved up to be the second Phase 4 movie released, ahead of Eternals.

Disney even paused production for several months in the middle of 2020, again due to the pandemic. The film — which stars Simu Liu as the titular hero — brings the MCU full circle back to the Ten Rings. The organization kidnapped Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Iron Man. And Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings finally reveals the true Mandarin (Tony Leung), the leader whose identity was previously a punchline in Iron Man 3.

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Will Marvel Studios still release it exclusively in theaters?

As of now, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is slated for an exclusive theatrical release. However, that feels like it could be subject to change before September rolls around. On the one hand, the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases is again on the rise. And more lockdowns — and a potential shutdown of movie theaters — could happen all over again. Moreover, Disney’s rollout of Black Widow didn’t go too well.

That film’s simultaneous release in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access not only contributed to less-than-expected box office totals. It also led star Scarlett Johansson to sue Disney for its mishandling of the movie. Since her contract included a percentage of the movie’s theatrical earnings, Disney’s release strategy robbed her of potential profits. This lawsuit and the continuing pandemic leave Disney and Marvel in a weird place.

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Disney might change the ‘Shang-Chi’ release if necessary

A theatrical release for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings no longer feels like a given. If the COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Disney could make a last-minute change to its release strategy. At this point, it’s unclear whether their go-to would be a simultaneous release on Disney+ Premier Access — like Black Widow and Cruella — or another tactic.

Perhaps Disney will simply send the movie directly to streaming. This was the approach for Pixar films Soul and Luca, after all. As of now, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is still an exclusively theatrical release. But it feels unlikely it will stay that way ahead of its Sept. 3, 2021 release date.