Why You Can't Watch 'Shang-Chi' on Disney+—And When the Marvel Movie Will Be Streaming

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), coming out everywhere on Friday, September 3.

Previously this year, Marvel movie Black Widow came to Disney+ on the same day it came to theaters under what is called Disney Premier Access, which allowed subscribers to pay an additional premium to watch the latest movies fresh from movie theaters.

Viewers hoping to watch the next Marvel film on Disney+ this month, however, will be disappointed. Shang-Chi, which stars Simu Liu, Awkwafina and Michelle Yeoh, is only in theaters.

However, the movie will be streaming at some point, though viewers have a few weeks to wait.

Why Isn't 'Shang-Chi' on Disney+?

To understand why Shang-Chi is only in theaters when previous major Marvel and Disney movies came straight to Disney+, we have to understand a little of the cinema industry post-pandemic.

When COVID-19 closed down theaters, the major studios were left with a choice—either delay films for when the pandemic was contained, or release them onto streaming.

At first, the major releases (including Shang-Chi) were held back, while smaller films like Trolls World Tour and Bloodshot were released online.

Realizing that the pandemic was going on longer than many expected, the studios started to lose money at huge rates due to not releasing anything. This was particularly a problem for Disney, which owned not only a dormant set of studios, but an empire of theme parks that were not allowed to open for months. By November 2020, the Mouse House had to lay off 32,000 employees.

In this climate, studios had to start experimenting with some more COVID-proof release strategies. While Warner Bros announced that all their movies would come to HBO Max on the day they came to theaters, Disney announced Premier Access for Mulan, which meant it could release its new movies while still making a decent profit on them—or, at least, a bigger profit than it would get if it dropped them free for Disney+ subscribers. Though, of course, Disney did release some content like Soul and Hamilton at no additional cost on Disney+.

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Simu Liu in a promo image for "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." Marvel

While this worked temporarily, it did also anger theater owners, who previously were allowed to screen movies for 90 days before they came online. Some films that streamed while they were in theaters like WB's The Suicide Squad and Black Widow also notably underperformed at the box office compared to expectations.

With all that in mind, Disney tried an experiment with their recent Ryan Reynolds movie Free Guy. It only released the movie in theaters and not on Premier Access. This experiment paid off, with Free Guy overperforming hugely compared to expectations.

With the success of Free Guy, the path was set for Shang-Chi (one of Disney's biggest releases of the year) to only play in theaters.

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When Will 'Shang-Chi' Be on Disney+?

Disney+ subscribers have about six weeks to wait before they will be able to stream the latest chapter of the MCU.

Though Disney has been able to placate theater owners by not putting their biggest movies straight onto Disney+, the deal between the company and theater companies has changed for now, and possibly for good.

While there used to be a 90-day "theatrical window" between a film being released and coming to streaming, that has now been reduced to 45 days,

Though Disney+ has not confirmed exactly when Shang-Chi will be streaming, the earlier it will be released on Disney+ is Monday, October 18, 45 days after its cinematic release.