How Shang-Chi Changed The Dynamics Of Pandemic Era Big Budget Movie Releases.
Posted:Sept. 17, 2021, 4:29 p.m.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Covid-19 pandemic has changed the Hollywood forever. Pandemic has hit the world when Hollywood’s big franchises were in a phase of minting billions of dollars with almost every film. Amongst those franchises Marvel Cinematic Universe can be considered as most successful and universally accepted. Initially, in the early 2020, when lockdown phase was getting started, Hollywood executives stalled their releases and production in hope that the stand-still was temporary but the situation seemed like it has no chance of improving anytime soon.
Many movies which completed production chose the path of OTT which skyrocketed the OTT market. As the situation started to improve in US after 2nd wave of Covid, many low and medium budget movies started releasing their movies in theaters for a short window and sold the digital rights to OTT giants. But a lot of dilemmas for the studios was with big budget films. Because of huge budgets they cannot be directly released on OTTs but the marketing costs kept on increasing so they couldn’t hold them for much longer.
Amidst this confusion, WB released Christopher Nolan’s big budget action thriller Tenet in September of 2020 in few countries and in phase wise in other countries as soon as the situation started getting better. It was the first tent-pole to release in theaters after shutdown and has managed to gross $363M USD with a domestic collection of $56M against a budget of $200M. Because of the increased marketing costs and many other factors, the movie did not bring in any profits for the studio. After this, WB has announced that all their movies will have a hybrid release of theatrical and HBO Max in hopes of at least bringing in subscriptions to their newly introduced OTT platform. This has had a mild success. Because HBO Max is only available in US and is in early stages of introduction in Latin America, increase in no of subscriptions was less than the company hoped for. Also because of same day HBO Max release, piracy has dented box office figures of its high budget movies like Wonder Woman 1984, Godzilla Vs Kong and The Suicide Squad.
On the other hand, Disney took a slightly different approach. It released its big budget flicks such as Mulan and Jungle Cruise in a hybrid approach of same day Disney+ release but with a paid subscription the movie. It has helped a bit for the above-mentioned movies but thus approach has tasted success with Marvel Studios’ Black Widow. Black Widow which was released in a hybrid model with premium access of $30 on Disney+ managed to gross more than $300M worldwide with whopping $60M from just Disney+. But this method of releasing movies in hybrid model hasn’t gone well with the filmmakers and actors. So as soon as the situation started getting better Disney has promised to release it Marvel slate exclusively in theaters. But scares of 3rd wave of covid and that audience are reluctant to go to theaters started reaching the hearts of big studio executives. So Disney made a plan to release Shang-Chi and analyze its box office performance and take a decision on its other releases.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which hit the screens on September 3, 2021 has stormed the box office and has managed to smash the Labor Day record by grossing $75.5M in three days and $90M in its four-day long weekend in the domestic market. It has been well received by the critics and the word of mouth is excellent. It is poised well to gross around $250M in the domestic market. This has shocked the big studios as well as the trade circles who expected the movie to have lowest opening weekend of $40-$45M in the history of MCU. As a result, Disney has reportedly decided to release their movies exclusively in theaters and Sony’s Venom 2, which is based on one of Marvel’s characters has preponed its release date to October 1.
Tom Hanks in one of his interviews during pandemic when asked about revival of theaters mentioned that Marvel Studios is capable of bringing audience back to the theaters. He certainly wasn’t wrong. The first Asian-led Superhero of Marvel has managed to revive the theaters not only domestically but also in many parts of the world.
Tags ShangChi MarvelStudios Venom