On what's historically one of the sleepiest weekends at the movies, the Marvel film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings smashed the record for Labor Day openings with an estimated $71.4 million in ticket sales, giving a box office reeling from the recent coronavirus surge a huge lift heading into the fall season. The Friday-to-Sunday gross for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel's first film led by an Asian superhero, ranks as one of the best debuts of the pandemic, trailing only the previous Marvel film, Black Widow, at $80.3 million in July, and Universal Pictures' F9, at $70 million in June. Overseas, it pulled in $56.2 million for a global three-day haul of $127.6 million, the AP reports.
The Walt Disney Co. opted to release Shang-Chi only in theaters where it will have an exclusive 45-day run. Some of the studio's releases this year, including Black Widow, have premiered day-and-date in theaters and on Disney+ for $30. The strong opening of Shang-Chi—forecasts had been closer to $50 million—was a major relief for Hollywood, which had seen jittery releases the past few weeks during rising COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant. Several upcoming films have recently postponed out of the fall, including Top Gun: Maverick. Disney's weekend, though, should lend confidence to upcoming big-budget releases such as the James Bond film No Time to Die.
"Shang-Chi is a real testament of the power of a theatrical-first strategy to drive huge numbers of moviegoers to the multiplex," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore. Theater owners will be celebrating. Exhibitors have argued day-and-date releases significantly cannibalize ticket sales. Warner Bros., which is putting all of its 2021 releases simultaneously on HBO Max, has vowed to end the practice next year. If it weren't for the pandemic, a Marvel movie wouldn't debut on a holiday weekend. The previous record over Labor Day weekend was $30.6 million for 2007's Halloween. (Read more box office stories.)