Shang Chi is Being Setup to FailThe Dark Herald
Bob Chapek has changed his mind. Despite the strong indications that Shang Chi would be pulled from theatrical distribution last week, Disney CEO Chapek went on the record at the 3RD quarter meeting, stating that Shang Chi will indeed be released “in theaters only.” Regardless of the fact that it is tracking to pull in an anemic box office haul of $35 to $55 million (and it’s not going to be $55 million).
Chapek has described this launch as a “data point” but at $150 million it’s a damned expensive piece of market research. This film is also locked into a 45-day theatrical window. Disney is trying to pretend that this was their idea, but it was entirely the theater owners. They have plenty of reason to be mad at Disney. Consequently, Shang Chi gets six weeks in the theaters and not a day more.
This is going to be right on the heels of two other bombs, Jungle Cruise and Black Widow. With one more bomb on the horizon, The Eternals.
Why the kamikaze marketing plan?
Again, this is a matter of internal studio politics at Disney. There have been a number of articles in the trade media voicing the complaints of “the creators” at Disney regarding Chapek’s drive for centralization. But who exactly are these “creators?” If you read between the lines you will realize, it’s not filmmakers, it is the heads of the various subdivisions. Iger divided his empire into fiefdoms and made very little effort at central control. That worked well enough when each subdivision was run by an irreplaceable man. The problem is that the irreplaceable men are all gone, and the subdivisions have all veered way off into Wokeland.
The worst offender is the San Francisco-based Pixar. Once the Wokelings at Pixar succeeded in their coup against John Lasseter, they began to aggressively pursue their own fantasies. They seem to be even more upset at Chapek than Marvel is. The rumor is that Pixar employees have been trying to figure out some way to become an independent studio again. There is no way for them to do that, they are OWNED by Disney. That is how divorced from reality Pixar is at this point. I stand by my prediction that in five years, Pixar Studio will be shuttered and Renderman will likely be sold off to Apple.
However, the biggest problem Chapek has at the moment is Marvel. I remain convinced that ScarJo was instigated into launching her lawsuit by Feige. It appears that Bryan Lourd didn’t make that phone call I talked about earlier. This means CAA has chosen to throw in its lot with Marvel against Chapek.
The problem with Hollywood, in a nutshell, is that it is a world unto itself, but it thinks it’s the whole world. So far as the showbiz club is concerned, the known and powerful within their world, Kevin Feige is the stronger horse to bet on than this unknown accountant, Bob Chapek.
They can’t look at the big picture and the big picture is that it’s the money that counts. And the moneymen like Chapek. He’s doing the things the institutional investors want done.
Consequently, Chapek needs to severely damage Kevin Feige. So how best to do that?
At the moment, that’s simple. Just let him follow his own plans without let or hindrance. Feige is a powerhouse because of his record for box office success. But you are only as good as your last movie. His last movie flopped. His next movie is going to belly flop, and nobody is excited about The Eternals. His TV projects haven’t done well up to this point and the future ones look just as dismal. He does have Doctor Strange coming out after The Eternals but the next three after that will be Love and Thunder, Wakanda Forever (without Black Panther), and The Marvels.
Of Kevin Fiege’s next six Disney-owned Marvel releases, only one is of interest to general audiences and that is very dependent upon Doctor Strange being the star of his own movie and not the Scarlett Witch.
Chapek appears to have decided that the easiest way to break Feige is to step aside and let Kevin throw himself down the stairs.