It’s been a rough year-and-change for the theatrical window, that quasi-mystical arrangement between studios and theaters, designed to keep home video from (hypothetically) totally crushing the going-out-and-watching-movies business. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Disney has tried to walk a middle line on the issue of film releases in a world where there’s nowhere for films to release: Not quite the “delay everything except a handful of VOD releases” approach favored by Universal, but also not the “Fuck it, everything streams for free” approach utilized by Warner Bros. and HBO Max. Instead, Disney has gone the compromise route, dropping films like Soul directly onto its Disney+ service, while keeping bigger releases (Mulan, Raya And The Last Dragon) behind a premium paywall designed to keep some semblance of “the theatrical experience is primary!” propriety in place.
And while the Mouse Place is still holding some of its biggest films—most notably Black Widow, set for July 9, and Cruella, May 28—to this hybrid strategy, it’s also starting to tentatively schedule some actual movies for actual theaters that will not have to share their opening day buzz with Disney+. Specifically, Deadline reports that both Ryan Reynolds’ video game comedy Free Guy and Marvel martial arts flick Shang-Chi will both be getting full theatrical releases, with no Disney+ support. Who’d a thunk?
Admittedly, both films are a little further down the schedule than Cruella, Widow, or July 30's Jungle Cruise: Free Guy, about a video game NPC who starts fighting back against abusive players, is scheduled for August 13, while Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi doesn’t land until September 3. But it’s still the clearest sign of confidence in theaters that the company’s shown yet, ever since the point last year when it gave up on leapfrogging its movies backwards on the schedule every time it became clear (again) that COVID wasn’t going anywhere.