(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)
The numbers look good for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which pulled in a record-breaking $90 million across the four-day weekend. They look even better for theaters and the industry. The only people probably looking at the numbers with some grief are the folks at Paramount, which recently pushed both Jackass Forever and Top Gun: Maverick off this year’s schedule into 2022. That could still turn out to be a good idea and ultimately be looked back upon as just a slight delay for some bigger grosses, assuming the pandemic numbers head in the right direction again. But as the box office numbers have been showing for the past month now, people are still going to the movies – especially when there are no streaming options. But even more important for the industry is the extrapolation of these numbers, which are starting to feel more like pre-2020 instead of 2021. And not to bury the lede, but the box office just had its biggest Labor Day weekend ever. Not bad.
Only four other times in history has the four-day Labor Day holiday grossed over $100 million, led by the likes of Rob Zombie’s Halloween, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Possession (two of those movies did not even debut in that weekend). The films in this Labor Day weekend’s top 10 grossed over $131 million, besting the $114 million over the 2007 holiday which was led by Zombie’s Halloween.
Last week when we measured the success of Candyman, it was the Thursday-preview numbers that served as our guide. This week, we note that Shang-Chi had the second-best preview numbers during the pandemic, with $8.8 million. That is more than F9’s $7.1 million and less than Black Widow’s $13.2 million, which we should remember was made before the film hit Premier Access on Disney+ on Friday. Shang-Chi had no Premier Access on Friday, nor Saturday, Sunday, Monday, nor going forward.
The seven past live-action PG-13 films which have grossed between $8.3 million and $9.3 million in Thursday previews include 2014’s Godzilla, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. They averaged a three-day opening weekend of $82.5 million, with the second Fantastic Beasts film posting the weakest eventual three-day haul with $62.1 million. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings posted an estimate of $75.5 million over just the three days. That may be slightly below the average of those other films, which all had more recognizable name brands than Shang-Chi, but it is also the biggest Labor Day opening ever, the second-best opening of the pandemic, and the third-best September weekend ever behind both of the It films.
(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)
Those are also the only films to ever open in September and gross over $200 million. That is a number the box office has yet to crack since Bad Boys for Life did it before shutdown in 2020. Black Widow opened to $80 million and could not do it – but it was also available for a price at home. F9 opened to $70 million and came up shy of $175 million, despite being a theatrical exclusive. Only five films have ever grossed $90 million or more in their first five days and failed to gross $200 million: Fifty Shades of Grey, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Simpsons Movie, and The Day After Tomorrow are four of them; the fifth is this summer’s Black Widow (i.e. pandemic + home availability = some will avoid the risk).
Shang-Chi has very little competition over the next few weeks before Venom: Let There Be Carnage releases in its new just-announced date – Sony was clearly encouraged by this weekend’s numbers – and No Time To Die comes out. Add Monday’s holiday to the total and Shang-Chi is estimated to have a gross around $90 million over the four days, very much in line with the pre-pandemic average based on its Thursday numbers. What a difference a day makes! If we can begin to measure some metrics by films just being a day or so off their pre-2019 theatrical exclusive wavelengths, we may be making some progress. Especially if we can all just stay safe out there.
(Photo by 20th Century Studios)
Shang-Chi could not deliver the best Labor Day weekend ever all by itself. The continuing success of Free Guy can not be overlooked as it made another $8.9 million over the weekend and $11.4 million total over the holiday, bringing its total to $94.5 million in 25 days. That is over half a million more than what Jungle Cruise had in 26 days ($93.97 million). Cruise, which has been available on Disney+’s Premier Access, still has a strong presence in the top 5 in its sixth weekend of release and has driven its theatrical total to $106.7 million. Free Guy, without any streaming options until the end of the month, is now likely to surpass Jungle’s numbers and possibly get as high as $120 million. Free Guy’s three-day weekend also ranks 16th all-time amongst fourth weekends for August releases – higher than Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Straight Outta Compton, Rush Hour 3, and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. It has made $239 million worldwide to date. Jungle Cruise is at $189 million.
Candyman contributed even more money to the pot this weekend, making $10.4 million for a 53% drop from last weekend – better than The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’s 57% fall from a $24.1 million start and Old’s 59.3% fall from $16.8 million. With an increase to $13.3 million through the holiday, Candyman’s $41.7 million in 11 days is less than a million behind the pace of HBO Max’s The Suicide Squad, which made $42.6 million in 10 days. Remember that James Gunn’s day-and-date streaming film fell 71.5% down to $7.4 million in its second weekend. Candyman is now poised to surpass that film’s total and settle in with around $55 million-$60 million.
Paw Patrol: The Movie, which Paramount sacrificed into theaters so Clifford the Big Red Dog could live on someday, grossed $4.1 million this weekend and an estimated $5.3 million over the holiday. No family film released in the second half of August has ever grossed $57 million, let alone one streaming at the same time. Paw Patrol finds itself with $30.5 million after 17 days, which is better than The Angry Birds Movie 2 was doing in the same period in 2019 with a $3.94 million third weekend and $29.79 million. It went on to gross $41.66 million. Expect Paw Patrol to end up in that vicinity – lower than most family films gone hybrid this year, but potentially still higher than Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2, which was exclusive to theaters.
James Wan’s Malignant may be the closest thing to challenge Shang-Chi’s number 1 slot (but that is still further away than Jim Carrey’s shot at Lauren Holly in Dumb and Dumber). The horror film will also be streaming on HBO Max starting Friday. In more exclusive news, STXFilms is putting the Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste crime comedy, Queenpins, into select Cinemark theaters, just their second during the pandemic after this February’s The Mauritanian. Then Focus will be releasing Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter, which debuted to great critical acclaim at the Venice Film Festival this past week. It currently stands at 97% on the Tomatometer.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]