There was plenty of buzz awaiting the arrival of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” at the box office this past weekend. It is the first Marvel Studios theatrical-only release since 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” and opened amidst a raging global pandemic. Historically, Labor Day weekend has been where movies go to die, with the largest opening only being $30.5 million domestically from 2007’s “Halloween.”
With all of this suspicion, most box-office analysts were quite cautious with their predictions. Deadline estimated last week that the opening of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” would be around $45-50 million domestically and $90 million worldwide for the long weekend.
They were wrong.
Over the four-day weekend, “Shang-Chi” not only surpassed the $90 million mark domestically, but reached a grand opening total of $146.2 million worldwide. Bear in mind, this total does not include a gross from the Chinese box office, which is the world’s largest theatrical marketplace at the moment.
While “Shang-Chi’s” box-office story is unfinished, a $250 million domestic total is certainly in play if we see it hold well next weekend. This gross would be far and away, the top grossing movie of the year and a real triumph in pandemic times. Time will tell how the box office fares for the rest of 2021, but this weekend gives us some hope that a return to pre-pandemic times is on the horizon.
Coming in second this weekend is last week’s No. 1 film, “Candyman.” The film held well at the box office, with an estimated drop of only 52% weekend to weekend, which is not bad for a horror film. With a gross of around $12 million for the long weekend, “Candyman’s” domestic total rises north of $40 million.
In third place, in its fourth week of release, is “Free Guy,” which garnered an $11 million total over the four-day weekend. The film continues to rack up earnings, even this deep into its release, getting ever so close to $100 million domestically, which it will probably pass next week.
Fourth and fifth place were filled by family movies: “Jungle Cruise” and “PAW Patrol: The Movie,” which grossed around $5 million each. These films yet again show that the hybrid release strategy (releasing films both on streaming and in theaters) works wonders for family films.
Three movies head for theatrical releases next weekend: “Malignant,” “Queenpins” and “The Card Counter.”
Of these films, I expect “Malignant” to make its way into the top five next week, while the other two films will probably just miss out. Looking prospectively, there’s not much competition for “Shang-Chi’s” No. 1 spot until perhaps “Dear Evan Hansen” releases in three weeks, but even then I have doubts the musical adaptation will clear the superhero film, even in its fourth week of release.
However, that is a question that will be answered another day. As always, the only thing predictable about the box office is its unpredictability.