Shang-Chi Exceeds Expectations, Tops Box Office With $146 Million Worldwide

The box office has been on shaky ground over the past 18 months or so (for obvious reasons). Be that as it may, Marvel has once again proven the power of its brand in a big way. "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" absolutely shattered the previous record for Labor Day weekend releases, as the big new flick that hit theaters for the holiday. While many questions remain in the near future, to quote Bruce Banner, I see this as an absolute win.

According to Box Office Mojo, "Shang-Chi," which is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and stars Simu Liu as the titular hero, earned an impressive $75.5 million over its first three days domestically, and $90 million over the four-day holiday weekend. Globally, it earned $146.2 million. While $56.2 million internationally may seem a bit light, the movie still has key markets left to open in. Not the least of which being China. So that number will certainly grow in the coming weeks.

The film's domestic take absolutely shattered industry expectations. Amazingly enough, Rob Zombie's "Halloween" remake set the previous Labor Day record some 14 years ago. It took in $30.6 million at the time. Even when taking inflation into account, Disney and Marvel Studios have smashed that record Hulk-style. Liu, for his part, celebrated the accomplishment on Twitter by cleverly revisiting his days as a stock photo model.

The dominance of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the box office over the last decade and change is nothing new. But we still have a pandemic raging. Movies like "The Suicide Squad" have suffered as a result, though that movie's hybrid release, among other things, need to be factored in. In any event, the fact that "Shang-Chi" made more than "Ant-Man and the Wasp" did on its opening weekend bodes well for the industry. Most importantly, it likely bodes well for those who value the theatrical experience. Unlike "Black Widow," which was released both in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access in July, "Shang-Chi" is currently only available in theaters. It will have an exclusive 45-day theatrical window before making its way to Premium VOD.

While "Black Widow" still made more out of the gate ($80 million opening weekend), it absolutely plummeted in its second weekend. Not to mention the ongoing, rather ugly lawsuit with Scarlett Johansson and Disney. "Shang-Chi" was introducing a new, somewhat obscure character. Johansson had played Black Widow on screen for a decade before getting a solo movie. The fact that it was even this close is telling.

What Does This Mean for Other Upcoming Blockbusters?

Recently, "Top Gun: Maverick", "Mission: Impossible 7" and, perhaps most importantly, "Jackass Forever" were all delayed by Paramount. They will now release in 2022. This was in response to ongoing uncertainty at the box office, as studios can't risk losing money on these big blockbusters. But the success of "Shang-Chi" is already having an effect. Sony opted to move up the release of "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" by two weeks. At the very least, this may well have prevented another mass exodus of big movies this year.

One major, lingering question is what this means for Marvel's "Eternals." The movie is currently scheduled for November 2021. Between "Black Widow" and "Shang-Chi," Disney has a choice to make; go with the hybrid theatrical and Disney+ strategy, or give the film an exclusive theatrical release. In these crazy Covid times, there are no easy answers. But theatrical exclusivity clearly hasn't lost its charm.

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is now playing in theaters.