‘Shang-Chi’ Breaks Box Office Records With $8.8M Thursday

(L-R: Xialing, Shang-Chi (Simu Luu), and Katy (Awkwafina), in Marvel Studios' SHANGCHI AND THE LEGEND THE TEN RINGS. Jasin Boland. Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. Jasin Boland
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has already set at least one box-office record. It is the largest Thursday preview/midnight preview for a Labor Day weekend release. Kevin Feige and his friends didn't have to do much to achieve the new record for the Fri-Mon frame, as Disney opened the next Marvel Cinematic Universe movie in the slowest holiday weekend. The result was a Thursday gross of $8.8million, with showings beginning as early as 6:45 pm.

The Delta variant, climate change-related disasters making Covid conditions worse than when Black Widow and F9 opened in late June/early Jul, make the Destin Daniel Cretton-directed actioner an underdog despite it being another Marvel Cinematic Universe adventure. Its Thursday preview gross is right in line with F9 ($7.1million for a $70million Fri-Sun frame), and Black Widow ($13.2million for an $80.3million opening weekend) for the largest pandemic-era preview gross.

Black Widow received a lot of frontloading on its first weekend. This was partly (but not entirely) due to the film's availability on Disney+'s Premier Access. You can own it on Disney+ as long as your Disney+ subscription is $30. It made the MCU's most frontloaded debut ever with a Friday gross of $39 million, but it barely doubled its weekend total. F9, on the other hand, had a fairly normal Fri-Sun debut (for Fast & Furious 2), with a $30m Friday and a 2.3x weekend multiplier.

For a $42.5 million Fri-Sun/$77million Fri-Mon Memorial Day debut, Pirates of the Caribbean 5, which had a four-day opening of this magnitude, earned $5.5 million Thursday. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 made $13.2 million Thursday to launch a $153 million Memorial Day weekend launch. Quiet Place 2 made $4.8 million Thursday to make a $47.5million Fri-Sun/$57million Fri-Mon 2021 Memorial Day weekend debut. Black Panther made $25 million on Thursday to bow at $202 million/$242million 2018 Presidents Day weekend. Deadpool was able to make $12.7 million on Thursday, for a $132million/$152 million debut the same weekend in 2016.

If you look at these Fri-Mon openers, Shang Chi can be as lazy as Black Panther and reach $85 million in the Fri-Mon frame. This would be just as leggy (apples and oranges), F9s Thursday-weekend multiplier. It will flirt with a $106million Labor Day debut if it is as leggy and sluggish as Deadpool, At Worlds End, and A Quiet Place Part II. This may be unreasonably optimistic. It will still make $53 million if Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings are as leggy this weekend as Black Widow.

This would be the Fri-Sun's lowest Fri-Sun MCU premiere ever. However, it would still be close to the Fri-Sun debuts for Ant-Man ($58m in 2015) and The Incredible Hulk ($55m in 2008. If the extra days were not available, I believe that any person who sees an anticipatory movie over a long weekend would likely have seen it in the Fri-Sun time frame. I would therefore compare its Fri-Mon holiday debut with its Fri-Sun debut in traditional times, especially in these situations.

This is especially true considering the movie has received mostly positive reviews (92% fresh, 7.5/10 on Rotten Tomatoes), and strong buzz from those who saw it last night. There are no new four-quadrant movies between now and No Time to Die October 8 so Shang-Chi will be the only one in the field. This includes adult-skewing (The Many Saints of Newark and Cry Macho), post-summer fare, and horror films like Candyman and Malignant. Shang-Chi might not open for MCU, but I would expect legs closer to Guardians of the Galaxy rather than Captain America: Civil War.

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