After Shang-Chi’s Box Office Success, Three More Major Disney Films Are Confirmed For Exclusive Theatrical Release

Encanto, Eternals and West Side Story all going to theaters in 2021

(Image credit: (Disney))

If Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings truly was an “experiment,” it seems to have worked to the benefit of theaters this past weekend. The latest Marvel flick took a gamble when Walt Disney Studios decided to release the film exclusively to big screens over Labor Day weekend previously after using its Disney+ Premier Access model on movies like Black Widow, Cruella and Jungle Cruise. But then Shang-Chi made $150 million worldwide in a single weekend. and that was apparently enough for the studio to change up its strategy for the rest of the year.

The House of Mouse has reportedly confirmed that it will be bringing the remainder of its major releases in 2021 to theaters exclusively before making them available on streaming. Marvel's Eternals and Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story will debut in theaters for 45 days, whilst the next Disney Animated film, Encanto, will get a 30-day window, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Eternals is set for release on November 5, Encanto on the week of Thanksgiving and West Side Story on December 10. It perhaps signals a turning of a tide for Disney. The studio opted for fans of its movies to pay $29.99 to watch them at home on Disney+ starting with the release of Mulan this time last year, later adding a theatrical release alongside this in early 2021.

Universal has been the only major studio adhering to the theater exclusive window throughout the pandemic with releases such as Candyman, F9 and Old. But earlier this summer, the studio decided to release The Boss Baby: Family Business on its streaming service Peacock, and just yesterday, it announced the upcoming horror movie Halloween Kills will come to the service and theaters on the same day.

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Warner Bros has held tight to its decision to release every one of its 2021 movies to theaters and HBO Max all year long, including the upcoming made-for-big-screen movies Dune and The Matrix Resurrections. Sony recently moved up the theatrical-only release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage to October 1 after sending Hotel Transylvania: Transformania straight to streaming.

As evidenced by these differing strategies, there’s a lot of experimentation going on from Hollywood executives in terms of releasing its major movies. Eternals, Encanto and West Side Story all have the potential to become huge hits for the studio, and Disney is finally ready to take that leap at the box office. It should also be noted that the studio is currently being sued by Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson for allegedly breaching her contract with the release of the film in homes.

Though it is interesting that the report does not mention the confirmed status of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which is reportedly coming this December as well. However, in that instance, while Marvel Studios obviously had a hand in making No Way Home, it ultimately hails from Sony Pictures, so the latter likely has more say over its release plan. In any case, this is great news for the theater business, which has received a tough blow during the pandemic and the big-screen experience. Check out more upcoming 2021 movies here on CinemaBlend.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.