Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – pronounced “SHONG-chee” by the way – completely blew past the record for Labor Day openings with a four-day gross of $90M+. After fourteen years, 2007’s Halloween Labor Day open of $30M has been surpassed and tripled – proving once again that a great movie can find success even outside of “peak moviegoing seasons”. As far as September releases go, Shang-Chi is the third largest ever, only behind 2017’s It and 2019’s It: Chapter Two.
Leading up to the release, Shang-Chi was severely underestimated with forecasts in the $35M to $55M range. As Marvel’s first Asian superhero Simu Liu aptly put it, “We are not an experiment. We are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers. We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year. We are the surprise.” With a 98% RottenTomatoes and A Cinemascore, Shang-Chi is Marvel’s best reviewed film ever and had no trouble convincing people that this movie was worth the trip to the theater.
A testament to the buzz circulating Marvel’s first Asian superhero (and first Chinese superhero), Deadline reports that 63% of tickets were bought the day of release, 16% the day before, 14% in the week leading up to it, and 7% before that. Most moviegoers did not come alone: 46% came with friends, 20% with family, and 16% were on a date. The turn-out among Asian Americans was reportedly double the average for Marvel movies, anchored by a strong Asian cast (including Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung) and Asian Director Destin Daniel Cretton.
With a $75.5M three-day weekend, Shang-Chi surpassed even our pre-pandemic estimate of $75M (back when the release date was 2/12/21). That makes it the second-biggest domestic opening of the year, slightly behind Black Widow’s $80.3M debut. Unlike Black Widow, Shang-Chi is exclusive to theaters for the next 45 days and faces little-to-no competition until at least mid-October. Without a doubt, Shang-Chi will outgross Black Widow in the weeks to come.
Overall, the four-day weekend box-office hauled $134.6M. That is 12% ahead of 2019’s Labor Day weekend of $120.7M. Last week’s headliner Candymantook second place with a solid $10.2M three-day ($12.8M four-day). In third came Free Guy with yet another strong holdover, dropping just 34% to a $8.8M three-day ($11.2M four-day).
It is a fantastic start to September that should keep theaters buzzing before the October blockbusters – No Time to Die, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Halloween Kills, and Dune – arrive on screen. On the heels of Shang-Chi’s success, Sony has once again moved Venom back up from Oct. 15 to Oct. 1. The departure from the Oct. 15 weekend, which Venom would have shared with Halloween Kills, gives the Marvel-adjacent movie some breathing room. Here’s hoping that Shang-Chi’s success also means that Marvel Studio’s next film, Eternals (11/05), will also be exclusive to theaters.
Finally, with this weekend in the books, 2021’s YTD domestic gross of $2.18B outgrosses 2020’s $2.10B box-office. About half of that $2.18B has been made since July 1st. The pace of the box-office recovery has picked up tremendously since the start of the year. With 24 days still left to be tallied, 2021’s Q3 to-date total of $1.13B is 4.5 times ahead of Q1’s total $237M and 1.4 times ahead of Q2’s total $798M. Expect Q4 to take the box-office even higher as studios are no longer afraid to give theaters more tentpole feature-films.
Meanwhile, Warner Brothers is back in theaters this Friday 9/10 with Malignant – a horror film by Director James Wan who previously kick-started two major film franchises (Saw and The Conjuring). Horror has played well since the pandemic hit, so Malignant should also see a solid open.