‘Shang-Chi’ Scores on PVOD, but That’s Both a Win and a Problem for Disney

Two post-summer hits battle for #1 as individual one-time PVOD purchases continue to hold their own against subscriber-based sites.
Wenwu (Tony Leung) and Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios' SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021.
"Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings"
Marvel Studios

“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (Sony/$19.99) hits home platforms this week after its eighth weekend exclusively in theaters. It will very likely lead charts in upcoming weeks, with, among top titles still to come, Marvel’s “The Eternals” not announced and not likely to be available for home viewing before Christmas.

Meanwhile, two other top fall releases, both at $19.99, share the top position at the moment. “No Time to Die” (United Artists) and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (Disney) both took #1 spots among the three charts below. Both were made available last week, with initially the Bond title atop across the board.

That makes sense for “No Time to Die,” especially because of its early (31-day) PVOD release and older, still theater-averse audience. But the strong showing of “Shang-Chi” stands out as a sign of strange times where decision makers look for guidance of what strategies to pursue.

Disney held back “Shang-Chi,” the biggest domestic hit this year, for 75 days. It then placed the film on Disney+ free for subscribers (around 38 million U.S. households), but also on PVOD at the same time.

No specific numbers are available on viewings. But that the Marvel film is competitive against the more recent Bond title on PVOD, while also being available to the subscribers on Disney+, means Disney is picking up substantial new revenue (80 percent of the $19.99 after platform fees taken off).

Consider how odd Disney’s success here is. Netflix has their original film “Red Notice” with Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson, and Gal Gadot again at #1 (on their all-content chart, actually ahead of the just-released second season of “Tiger King”). The situation for “Shang-Chi” would be like if “Red Notice” also released for non-Netflix-subscribers for $19.99. That would be unthinkable, yet Disney is succeeding with it. Obviously, the theatrical play has elevated “Shang-Chi.”

And Disney, with its stock suddenly challenged (one leading analyst just downgraded it) because of disappointment over Disney + subscriber growth, benefits from additional and immediate revenues. But PVOD also denies Disney+ exclusivity for its best films. And that so many people are willing to lay out $19.99 for a single film when it only costs $7.99/month to see it on the site along with everything else there suggests some combination of hesitation in committing to the service along with ignorance about the option at this point. It shows resistance to signing up even though it would save “Shang-Chi” renters money.

Consumer confusion will be one result of another decision that will add a recent title to Disney +. “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” a Fox animation title released theater-exclusive last month, will arrive on Disney+ but also HBO Max on December 15. This oddity results from a still extant HBO claim on 20th Century Fox product that is now released by Disney post-acquisition. “Ron’s” makes perfect sense to show at the holidays, but Disney had to honor the inherited deal (which ends next year).

Another example of how a history of streaming doesn’t prevent VOD interest comes from the two Universal “Grinch” films — “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Grinch” — at $3.99 showed up both at Apple TV/iTunes and Vudu. These titles were hits last Christmas on Netflix, sustaining multiple weeks on its Top Ten. That means it likely got millions of views. They aren’t there now but are clearly still of interest, and the audience has shown a willingness to pay. Of note is that both placed at Vudu, which counts by revenue accrued rather than number of rentals, something that makes rentals this cheap unlikely to be elevated. They still did. There are reasons studios pay so much for libraries.

“Free Guy” (Disney/$5.99), still streaming nowhere because of its Fox heritage, continues its strong showing with three top four placements, two at #2. “F9” (Universal/$5.99) and “Jungle Cruise” (Disney/$5.99) joined that film, “No Time” and “Shang-Chi” on all charts.

The only two new titles are $19.99 — “Last Night in Soho” (Focus) and “The Many Saints of Newark” (Warner Bros.) — the latter just three weeks after HBO Max subscribers’ initial access, each at one site.

Christmas is in full swing on Netflix, with two originals, led by “The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star” at #2 listed. With “Red Notice” leading, “Love Hard” and “The Harder They Fall” continue their multi-week runs. New this week are Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “tick, tock…Boom” at #7 and “American Pie Reunion” #8. (In an odd juxtaposition, the 2012 Kevin James’ comedy “Here Comes the Boom” is just above Miranda’s well-received musical). Rebecca Hall’s “Passing,” at the high end of their originals and an awards contender, failed to repeat after its initial listing last week.

Apple TV/iTunes and Google Play rank films daily by number of transactions, irrespective of revenue accrued. These are the listings for November 22. Distributors listed are current rights owners.

Apple TV/iTunes

1. No Time to Die (United Artists) – $19.99

2. Free Guy (Disney) – $5.99

3. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney) – $19.99

4. Old Henry (Shout) – $5.99

5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Universal) – $3.99

6. F9 (Universal) – $5.99

7. The Grinch (Universal) – $3.99

8. Jungle Cruise (Disney) – $5.99

9. Last Night in Soho (Focus) – $19.99

10. Ghostbusters (1984) (Sony) – $3.99

Google Play

1. No Time to Die (United Artists) – $19.99

2. Free Guy (Disney) – $5.99

3. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney) – $19.99

4. Old (Universal) – $5.99

5. F9 (Universal) – $5.99

6. The Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.) – $5.99

7. Apex (RJLE) – $3.99

8. After We Fell (Vertical) – $3.99

9. Jungle Cruise (Disney) – $5.99

10. Black Widow (Disney) – $5.99


Vudu ranks by revenue, not transactions, which elevates Premium VOD titles. This list covers November 15-21

1. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney) – $19.99

2. No Time to Die (United Artists) – $19.99

3. F9 (Universal) – $5.99

4. Free Guy (Disney) – $5.99

5. Jungle Cruise (Disney) – $12.99

6. Candyman (Universal) – $5.99

7. The Many Saints of Newark (Warner Bros.) – $19.99

8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Universal) – $3.99

9. The Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.) – $5.99

10. The Grinch (Universal) – $3.99

Netflix Movies

Most viewed, current ranking as of Monday, November 22; originals include both Netflix-produced and -acquired titles they initially presented in the U.S.

1. Red Notice (2021 Netflix original)

2. The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star (2021 Netflix original)

3. Extinct (2021 animated Netflix original)

4. Love Hard (2021 Netflix original)

5. The Harder They Fall (2021 Netflix original)

6. Here Comes the Boom (2012 theatrical release)

7. tick…tock…Boom! (2021 Netflix original)

8. American Pie Reunion (2021 Netflix original)

9. The Holiday (2006 theatrical original)

10. All I Want for Christmas Is You (2021 Netflix original)

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