‘Shang-Chi’ Continues To Superhero Fatigue Past $255M Global

Walt Disney and Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (review) held up well in its second Fri-Sun frame. The Simu Liu/Awkwafina/Tony Leung-starring action fantasy grossed $34.1 million (-52.5%) for a new ten-day total of $143.915 million. That’s the biggest non-opening weekend gross since the $72 million second-weekend gross of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (following a $177 million debut weekend) in December 2019. Heck, among Fri-Sun opening weekends in 2020 and 2021, it sits behind only Bad Boys 3 ($62 million), Sonic the Hedgehog ($58 million), A Quiet Place part II ($47.5 million), F9 ($70 million) and Black Widow ($80 million). With $112 million overseas, it has earned $257.6 million worldwide. At this rate, it could pass $400 million global by the end.

The Destin Daniel Cretton-directed film’s $145.5 million cume (including $12.4 million in IMAX) makes it one of the biggest domestic earners of 2020 and 2021. Once it passes Sonic the Hedgehog ($146 million in February 2020), it’ll be behind just A Quiet Place part II ($160 million), F9 ($173 million), Black Widow ($183 million) and Bad Boys For Life ($204 million in January 2020). Unless it outright collapses, unlikely since the next two weeks are adult-skewing and/or adult-skewing flicks like Cry Macho, The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Dear Evan Hansen, it should be just over/under Black Widow by next Sunday, with a clear path (Venom: Let There Be Carnage opens on October 1) to being the first movie to pass $200 million domestic in 1.75 years.

We haven’t had a year without at least one $200 million grosser since 1995 (led by the $171-$191 million-grossing Apollo 13, Batman Forever and Toy Story). We haven’t had as long a gap without such a film since the four years between Back to the Future ($210 million in 1985) and Batman ($251 million in 1989). More importantly, Shang-Chi is playing like a rock-solid MCU movie, in terms of raw grosses and weekend holds. The 52.5% drop is right in line with Captain America: The Winter Soldier (-56% after a $94 million debut), Guardians of the Galaxy (-54% after a $94 million opening), Thor: Ragnarok (-53% after a $123 million debut), Captain Marvel (-55% after a $154 million launch) and Ant-Man (-56% after a $58 million debut).

It’s playing like Thor: The Dark World, which opened with $96 million over a Fri-Mon Veteran’s Day debut in 2013 and fell 57% for a $146 million ten-day cume (for a $206 million domestic finish). However, Thor 2 (often held up as one of the worst MCU movies even if general audiences mostly thought it was “fine, whatever”) got shellacked in weekend three and four by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (a $158 million debut and then a $100 million Wed-Sun Thanksgiving gross) and Frozen (a $93 million Wed-Sun wide release debut over Thanksgiving). All due respect, I don’t expect similar-sized competition from Cry Macho and Dear Evan Hansen. Shang-Chi is “the danger” until Venom 2 on October 1 and No Time to Die on October 8.

By that time, along with Universal’s Halloween Kills on October 15 and (fingers-crossed-for-success) Warner Bros.’ Dune on October 22, it will have been around 45 days which is when the film may end up on Disney+ following the aforementioned 45-day exclusivity window. If Disney’s Shang-Chi ends up with even Thor: The Dark World or Ant-Man and the Wasp-level domestic grosses, it’ll be hard not to declare the film a “successful experiment” in terms of Bob Chapek wondering out loud what would have if they released an MCU movie exclusively in theaters but only for 45 days before arriving (presumably for free) on the streaming platform. While he may have hoped it would justify further direct-to-consumer releases, the results seem to skew in the “positive” for theatrical exclusivity.  

Even half the once-standard 90-day theatrical window, Shang-Chi is performing awfully close to how it might have (at least domestically) in non-Covid circumstances. It’ll probably end its run with $215-$230 million domestic. Sure, it might have earned closer to Doctor Strange ($232 million) or The Winter Soldier ($259 million)-level grosses otherwise. However, A) it still might (Ant-Man legs from this point gets it to $247 million) and B) over/under $210 million is still a solid result for a “part one” MCU movie based on a far-less popular character mostly without conventional star power. Ditto Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer’s original, star-driven, high-concept Free Guy ($101.6 million as of tonight), will pass Jungle Cruise ($110 million along with whatever it earned on Premier Access) in a week or two.

And with word that Disney will be giving a 30-day window for Encanto window (so that the film will be in theaters on Thanksgiving and Disney+ by Christmas) and a 45-day window for Eternals, The King’s Man, West Side Story and Nightmares and Dreamscapes, it’s hard not to look at this result as a brutal, if not quite fatal, blow to the whole “day and date Premier Access” hybrid release notion, at least for now. Of course, the high-profile Scarlett Johansson lawsuit may have played a role in that decision, but I digress. We may see Premier Access used as an earlier exclusive post-theatrical window, but if Chapek was hoping Shang-Chi would underperform to an extent to justify continued hybrid releases, then, yeah, Shang-Chi is a glorious “failure.”  

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