Courtesy of Marvel Studios
Ticket sales for the superhero movie, led by Simu Liu and Awkwafina, fell 53% from its debut, a decline on par with many Marvel installments in pre-pandemic times. Notably, “Shang-Chi” is holding up better than “Black Widow,” the studio’s recent comic book adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson, which plummeted nearly 70% in its sophomore outing. “Black Widow” opened earlier in the summer simultaneously on Disney Plus (for an extra $30), while “Shang-Chi” is playing only in cinemas.
Globally, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” has cleared the $250 million mark with revenues currently at $257.6 million. With $145.6 million at the domestic box office, the film is already the fourth-highest grossing film of 2021 and, if momentum sustains, it could give “Black Widow” ($182 million to date) a run for its money as the year’s biggest earner.
Even without a release date set in China, an important market for Marvel movies, box office receipts for “Shang-Chi” appear to be encouraging for Disney. After putting “Black Widow,” “Jungle Cruise” and “Cruella” concurrently on Disney Plus under its Premier Access banner, the studio announced last week that the rest of its 2021 slate — including Marvel’s “Eternals” and Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of “West Side Story” — will each screen exclusively in theaters. The news is especially promising to theater operators, because Disney films are routinely among the highest-grossing of the year and most multiplexes in the U.S. and Canada have been struggling to sell tickets to movies that are also available at home on streaming platforms.
Without any notable competition, “Shang-Chi” had no trouble towering over domestic charts. The weekend’s only new nationwide release, the Warner Bros. twisted thriller “Malignant,” debuted in third place with $5.57 million from 3,485 locations. Given its production budget was above $40 million, that’s a tepid result since horror has been a reliable big-screen during the pandemic. Plus, the film’s director James Wan, the co-creator of “The Conjuring” Universe and the “Saw” franchise, has a solid track record when it comes to cinematic scares.
But a bonkers twist ending, as well as decent reviews for the genre (75% on Rotten Tomatoes), weren’t enough to entice audiences to watch a movie that, like every Warner Bros. release this year, is available to stream on HBO Max at the same time. It landed a “C” grade on CinemaScore, which doesn’t bode well for its future commercial prospects.
“This is a weak opening for a genre that’s held up well during the pandemic,” says David. A Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “With the film available on HBO, this start is below average.”
Overseas, “Malignant” made $6.3 million from 69 international markets for an international total of $9.5 million and a global tally of $15.1 million.
To put “Malignant’s” muted opening weekend ticket sales into perspective, it generated nearly the same amount as “Free Guy,” Disney’s sci-fi action comedy with Ryan Reynolds, did in its fifth weekend of release. “Free Guy” ever so slightly pulled ahead of “Malignant” and pocketed $5.8 million from 3,650 venues. In total, the film has collected $101.5 million in North America, an impressive sum for an original property. “Free Guy” is doing solid business at the international box office, pocketing $174.7 million from 47 overseas territories for a global tally of $276.5 million.
Universal’s slasher film “Candyman” nabbed the No. 4 spot with $4.8 million from 3,279 locations. After three weeks of release, the movie had amassed $48 million in the U.S. and Canada and an additional $10.9 million internationally.
Disney’s family adventure “Jungle Cruise” rounded out the top five, pulling in $2.4 million in its seventh frame. The film, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, has earned $109 million at the domestic box office and $194 million worldwide.
Elsewhere in North America, Focus Features premiered Paul Schrader’s drama “The Card Counter” in 580 cinemas. The film, led by Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish, kicked off with $1.1 million, enough to rank eighth on box office charts.
“Following the great response out of Venice and Telluride, we’re thrilled to see moviegoers around the country responding with the same enthusiasm for what Paul’s created on screen with Oscar, Tiffany and Tye,” said Focus president of distribution Lisa Bunnell. “And to see the specialty film audiences returning to theaters in these numbers is exciting not just for Focus, but for our entire industry.”
Variety's Rebecca Rubin contributed to this post.