For the pandemic, Disney/Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings posted a solid Thursday night preview gross especially before a slow Labor Day box office frame, with $8.8 million from showtimes that began at 6 p.m. On the high side, that figure is above the Thursday night start of Universal’s F9, which posted $7.1M before slotting the second-best opening day of the pandemic of $29.9M (previews repped 24% of that number) and second-best weekend of $70M.
We had been hearing that advance ticket sales were running ahead of F9 and A Quiet Place Part II, so Shang-Chi‘s Thursday makes sense.
The question is how front-loaded Thursday is in regards to the rest of the weekend; there’s a lot of hope that this movie will be a sleeper that feasibly owns the month of September. The Destin Daniel Cretton-directed Marvel Cinematic Universe title opens in 4,300 locations today. Total global launch is estimated between $90M-$100M. A domestic record Labor Day weekend opening is in store, besting the $30.6M four-day start of 2007’s Halloween.
Shang-Chi‘s Thursday is less than Black Widow‘s $13.2M, ranking second overall for previews during Covid. Now, before someone goes out defending the theatrical day-and-date model (that Scarlett Johansson movie hit Disney+ Premier on its opening day), note that it goes back to product, and Black Widow was a long-awaited Marvel movie held throughout the pandemic. Shang-Chi is deeper-universe MCU, and a new hero for the big screen. As buzz clicks, audiences will discover this film. Black Widow posted the biggest opening day during the pandemic and weekend, respectively, with $39.5M and $80.3M. Black Widow‘s Thursday night repped 33% of its opening Friday.
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Separately, in a Fandango poll of 1,500 moviegoers earlier in the week, 90% were looking forward to the star-making performance of Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, 89% were excited to see the first MCU movie led by an Asian and Asian American cast, while 88% wanted to see how the film will continue Marvel’s Phase 4 storyline.
Why is Disney programming a movie over Labor Day weekend, a notoriously sluggish end to the summer box office? Essentially, they’re of the philosophy that a Marvel movie can open anywhere on the calendar. Warner Bros has mined great riches with horror films in the post Labor Day frame with It (a September record of $123.4M), It Chapter 2 ($91M) and The Nun ($53.8M). They’ll have James Wan’s Malignant next weekend in theaters and on its streaming service HBO Max; the conundrum there is that they’re keeping the lid on any spoilers for the movie in the marketing campaign.
Many in the industry will try and fault the pandemic for any shortfall, or less than standard, on Shang-Chi this weekend. But, remember, it’s Labor Day weekend, and by pre-pandemic standards Shang-Chi is a hit. Next to last year at this time with Warner Bros’ Tenet, we’re light years ahead: New York and LA weren’t open a year ago, and arguably many in the U.S. didn’t really know that cinemas had reopened wherever they were. The Christopher Nolan movie made $11.6M over four days.