Box Office: ‘Shang-Chi’ Superhero Fatigues To Boffo $30M Friday

In Marvel Studios' SHANGCHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS, Katy (Awkwafina), and Shang-Chi [Simu Liu] Marvel Studios. Photo by courtesy. Marvel Studios 2021. Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved
Perhaps it is not too late for Sony and Venom: Let There be Carnage to be moved back to September 24, Perhaps the problem with Snake Eyes or The Suicide Squad was Snake Eyes or The Suicide Squad. Like A Quiet Place II, F9 and Black Widow (review), Walt Disneys Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is opening nearly as well as it would in normal circumstances. Marvel's new action fantasy movie is breaking all existing Labor Day weekend records. It also opens in the business of normal for MCU movies. The Labor Day record for 2007 was $26.5 million Fri–Sun and $30.5million Fri–Mon for Rob Zombie Halloween. Yesterday, Destin Daniel Crettons ShangChi just bagged $29.6 Million.

This is essentially the same as the Friday debut of Universals F9 at $29.86 million in late June, and it's not far from the opening day of Disneys Black Widow at $39.51 million in early July. The opening day total also includes previews of $8.8 million on Thursday, making it $21.2 million pure Friday. This is just behind F9's ($22.76million) and Black Widow's ($26.3 million). The Simu Liu/Awkwafina/Tony Leung fantasy received strong reviews (92% fresh, 7.5/10 on Rotten Tomatoes), solid buzz, and a desire to see it among many demographics (not only Asian Americans). This resulted in an opening day gross that was still within the range of a mid-level MCU flick. It was not feared that the movie would be lower-grossing than any other MCU movie.

This opening day is larger than those of Ant-Man, Captain America, Thor and The Incredible Hulk. It is within striking distance of the $31-$39million opening days of Thor, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. Ant-Man and the Wasp, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Black Widow. It could be a Thor: The Dark World (31.5% million Friday/$85 million Fri–Sun/$96million Fri-Mon Veteran's Day weekend 2013) or Black Panther Over Presidents Day weekend 2018. (76 million Friday/$202 millions Fri-Sun/$242million Fri-Mon). We were expecting a debut of $90-$93 million Fri–Mon. Shang-Chi can make $88 million if it only legs like A Quiet Place part II (57 million for a $19million Friday this past Memorial Day weekend).

Unless the ship sinks completely after yesterday, which is unlikely since it's only in theaters and it's quite good), we are looking at Fri-Mon totals between Ant-Man and The Wasp ($75m) and Captain America The Winter Soldier (95m). Yes, people who come to Fri-Mon for anticipated films would also have attended Fri-Sun if they had not. It is expected to bring in $70 million for Fri-Sun, which is tied with F9, and just under/over the likes of Thor ($65million), Captain America ($65million), Ant-Man & the Wasp ($75million), Black Widow (80 million), Thor, The Dark World ($85million), and Doctor Strange (88 million). You'll see that not all MCU movies will perform as well as Black Panther and Captain Marvel.

Doctor Strange, the original MCU origin story solo movie in late 2016, held the record until that performance by a sky-high performer. The record was held by Iron Man ($102million in 2008) right up to Black Panther. Marvel had a Tony Stark ceiling until Black Panther. Guardians of the Galaxy, which grossed $773 million in 2014, was the only MCU movie that broke even $715 million. Only Guardians 2, which cost $869 million, and Thor: Ragnarok (854 million) managed to crack $800 million until 2018. Ant-Man and The Wasp ($216m domestic, $620m worldwide) performed about the same as Ant-Man ($180m domestic and $519m worldwide).

Credit goes to the expected places. Marvel has perfected the blockbuster basics, guaranteeing at most a three-star experience to moviegoers. Shang-Chi can be seen 95% alone for those who have not been to all the movies and/or simply want to see a mega-movie featuring a majority of Asian actors (R.I.P. Snake Eyes is yet another example of diversity being important for movies that audiences want to see. Shang-Chi is so much better than trailers, that I'm half convinced it was an Aladdin-style hustle. If you know that the audience will be there, you can conceal most of the goods and allow them to discover the movie as paying customers. This will increase buzz, including an A from Cinemascore and sense of viewer ownership.

There was little recognition of IP names and very few people who know the movie stars. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were likely to perform more like Ant-Man and Spider-Man: Homecoming ($881million, with an assistance from Iron Man or Black Panther) than Ant-Man and Spider-Man: Homecoming (1.346 billion). It is remarkable that the film has performed so well in these unusual circumstances. This is more proof that A) theatrical exclusivity does matter, B) any weekend can be home to a boffo debut, and C) some of the soft summer movie box offices were due to the relatively soft offerings. James Bond can breathe a sigh relief with $53 million in worldwide box office so far.

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