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Marvel's 'Shang-Chi' jump-starts pandemic box office with historic Labor Day opening
Disney's "interesting experiment" of giving Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings an exclusive theatrical rollout has paid off big time. With no streaming option available to audiences (à la Black Widow), the film is expected to close out the long holiday weekend with $90 million in North America. That wouldn't just make it the largest domestic opening of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would also take the title for biggest Labor Day opening in box office history.
The previous record-holder was Rob Zombie's Halloween remake, which opened to just over $30 million over Labor Day in 2007. Moreover, Shang-Chi will be the only tentpole of the pandemic to come close to hitting the $100 milestone at the domestic box office in its very first weekend. That kind of money on the first go-round was thought to be a relic of the past.
Sony Pictures is so emboldened by Disney's financial triumph, that the studio decided to move up Venom: Let There Be Carnage by two weeks to the first Friday in October. Shang-Chi's success not only bodes incredibly well for Carnage, but also for Eternals (Nov. 5) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (Dec. 17), which have undoubtedly been waiting with bated breath to see how Shang-Chi fared amid the tepid climate of theatergoing amid the global health crisis.
This promising bow in the U.S. and Canada should hopefully be enough to convince studios to remain steadfast on current release dates instead of pushing major films down the release calendar for the umpteenth time.
"Champagne corks are popping all over Hollywood as Marvel's Shang-Chi shows the power of a devoted fanbase to drive a culturally significant and hugely entertaining film to record box office heights in movie theaters with the wisdom of a 'theatrical first' strategy once again being reflected in the numbers," Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst at Comscore, tells SYFY WIRE. "The traditionally sleepy Labor Day weekend has been transformed from zero-to-hero almost overnight with this incredible performance of Shang-Chi and this is a huge confidence-builder for the industry moving forward and yet another massive statement about the enduring allure and power of the cinema-going experience around the globe."
As of Sunday, Shang-Chi has made $71.4 million domestically, falling about $9 million shy of Black Widow's three-day record of $80 million back in early July. While Disney claimed a total of $215 million in opening sales for Natasha Romanoff's solo adventure, that figure was actually beefed up with streaming purchases via Disney+ Premier Access. If we're strictly looking at box office returns through Monday, however, The Legend of the Ten Rings comes out on top.
Internationally, Marvel Studios' first Asian-led superhero project garnered $56.2 million over the traditional Friday-Sunday frame for a global debut of $126.7 million. That worldwide figure is expected to jump to nearly $140 million by the end of the extended weekend.
Set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the film stars Simu Liu (Kim's Convenience) in the title role. The character was trained to be a dangerous living weapon by his father, Wenwu (Tony Leung), the true leader of the Ten Rings, a terrorist organization (last seen in Iron Man 3) that gets its name from the powerful artifacts Wenwu has been using to amass power over the centuries. Years after he tried to leave a life of violence behind, Shang-Chi is forced to confront his dark past when daddy comes knocking.
Written by David Callaham (Mortal Kombat) and director Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12), the ensemble cast also includes: Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Yuen Wah, Ronny Chieng, Zach Cherry, Dallas Liu, Michelle Yeoh, and Ben Kingsley.
After debuting in the No. 1 spot last weekend, Universal Pictures' Candyman had its hive knocked down into second place with a sophomore haul of $10.55 million that boosts the film's North American cume to $39 million. The horror sequel/soft reboot from writer-director Nia DaCosta is expected to close in on $42 million by Monday. Globally, Candyman has already reached $50 million, thanks to an additional $12.6 million from international ticket sales.
Now in its fourth weekend, Free Guy took third place domestically with $8.7 million for a current North American total of $91.9 million, which should become a little over $94 million by the end of the holiday. On the global stage, the meta video game comedy released by Disney (under the studio's 20th Century Studios banner) has nearly $240 million.
Paramount's Paw Patrol: The Movie (nearing $31 million) and Disney's Jungle Cruise rounded out the Top 5 box office in the U.S. and Canada. Paw Patrol fetched $30 million over the three-day cycle and is expected to close out Labor Day with just over $31 million (globally, it's almost at $40 million). After hitting $100 million domestically last weekend, Jungle Cruise is projected to hit $106.8 million by Monday. With almost $200 million in global returns, Disney has decided to green-light a sequel that will see the return of both Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt.
Lastly, James Wan's Malignant opened in 24 international markets this weekend, bringing in a modest $2.4 million. The Aquaman director's highly-anticipated return to the horror genre hits domestic shores this coming Friday (Sep. 10). Like all of Warner Bros. releases in 2021, Malignant will be available to watch in theaters and on HBO Max (the latter requires a subscription to the WarnerMedia-owned streaming platform).
(Universal Pictures & SYFY WIRE are both owned by NBCUniversal)
This article was originally published Sunday, Sep. 5 at 2:12 p.m. EST and updated Monday Sep. 6 at 1:37 p.m. EST