simu liu as shang-chi in shang-chi and the legend of the ten rings

Simu Liu Calls Out Disney’s “Interesting Experiment” Release Plan for Shang-Chi

“We are not an experiment.”

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Shang-Chi star Simu Liu has fired back at Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s comments, who recently described the release of the next Marvel film as an “interesting experiment.” Unlike recent Disney releases, which premiered simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ for Premier Access, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will play exclusively in theaters for 45 days before becoming available for streaming on Disney+ (Disney hasn’t said whether the film will be free with subscription or on Premiere Access, which costs $30).

According to Chapek, Disney is under contractual obligations in their distribution deals, and logistically they cannot reverse plans, despite the rise of the Delta variant of COVID-19. Shang-Chi also functions as a test run for the studio for future releases, as they struggle to acclimate to the pervasive pandemic. “So the prospect of being able to take a Marvel title to the [streaming] service after going theatrical at 45 days will be yet another data point to inform our actions going forward on our titles,” said Chapek.

Disney is already dealing with angry theater chains who see Premier Access as undercutting their revenue and frustrated stars who see Premier Access as cutting into their promised profits on the back end. Scarlett Johansson is currently suing Disney over their hybrid release of Black Widow, which potentially lost the star millions of dollars.

It’s upsetting that Disney is using Marvel’s first Asian-centered film as a test subject. Simu Liu, who plays the titular role, called out Chapek on social media, tweeting, “We are not an experiment. We are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers. We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year. We are the surprise. I’m fired the f**k up to make history on September 3rd; JOIN US.”

Disney, like most of us, was hedging their bets that the pandemic would be less of a threat come September 3. “That title was planned on being in a much more healthy theatrical environment,” said Chapek. But continued vaccine hesitancy and the rise of the Delta variant has seen parts of the country plunge into horrific condition as ICU beds fill up and cases spread like wildfire.

Disney is currently test running the Ryan Reynolds action comedy Free Guy as a theatrical-only release for 45 days. The film opened this weekend at number one, raking in $28.4 million. While the number would be low in a normal year, given the pandemic, this is a surprisingly strong opening. Hopefully Shang-Chi will see their own strong opening box office weekend.

(image: Disney/Marvel)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.