Well, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (review) has already nabbed at least one box office record, namely the biggest Thursday preview/midnight preview gross for a Labor Day weekend release. With Disney opening the next Marvel Cinematic Universe flick in what is usually the slowest holiday weekend of the year, Kevin Feige and friends don’t have to work too hard to set a new milestone for this specific Fri-Mon frame. And, without breaking a sweat, an $8.8 million Thursday gross (with showings starting as early as 6:00 pm) did the trick.
With the Delta variant and climate change-related disasters creating Covid conditions arguably worse for theaters than when F9 and Black Widow opened in late June/early July, that the Destin Daniel Cretton-directed actioner is something of an underdog despite being yet another Marvel Cinematic Universe adventure. The Thursday gross puts it right between F9 ($7.1 million for a $70 million Fri-Sun frame) and Black Widow ($13.2 million for an $80.3 million opening weekend) among the biggest “pandemic-era” preview grosses.
Black Widow was heavily frontloaded on its opening weekend, a factor that was partially (but not entirely) attributable to the film’s availability of Disney+’s “Premier Access” (own it on Disney+ for as long as you subscribe to Disney+ for $30). The film nabbed a $39 million Friday but barely doubled that over the weekend, giving it the most frontloaded-ever MCU debut. Conversely, F9 had a relatively normal (for a Fast & Furious sequel) Fri-Sun debut with a $30 million Friday and a 2.3x weekend multiplier.
In terms of four-day openers of this scale, Pirates of the Caribbean 5 earned $5.5 million on Thursday for a $62.5 million Fri-Sun/$77 million Fri-Mon Memorial Day debut in 2017. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 earned $13.2 million on Thursday for a $153 million Fri-Mon 2007 Memorial Day weekend launch. Quiet Place 2 earned $4.8 million on Thursday for a $47.5 million Fri-Sun/$57 million Fri-Mon 2021 Memorial Day weekend debut. Black Panther earned $25 million on Thursday for a $202 million/$242 million 2018 President’s Day weekend bow, while Deadpool earned $12.7 million on Thursday for a $132 million/$152 million debut on the same weekend in 2016.
Just going by these big Fri-Mon openers, Shang-Chi can be as leggy as Black Panther and make it to $85 million over the Fri-Mon frame. That would also be as leggy as (apples and oranges) F9’s Thursday-weekend multiplier. If it ends up as leggy as Deadpool, At World’s End and A Quiet Place part II, then it’ll flirt with a $106 million Labor Day debut, which is perhaps unreasonably optimistic. However, if Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is only as leggy as Black Widow this weekend, it’ll still earn around $53 million over the Fri-Sun frame.
That would be, by default, the lowest Fri-Sun MCU debut ever, with the caveat that its four-day total would be right between the Fri-Sun debuts of The Incredible Hulk ($55 million in 2008) and Ant-Man ($58 million in 2015). I generally argue that anyone who sees an anticipated movie over a long weekend likely would have seen it over the conventional Fri-Sun frame if those extra days weren’t in play. So, especially in these circumstances, I’d equate its Fri-Mon holiday launch with a Fri-Sun debut in conventional times.
That’s especially true as the movie is pretty damn good, with mostly positive reviews (92% fresh and 7.5/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) and strong buzz among those who sampled it last night. Considering there are no new big four-quadrant flicks between now and No Time to Die on October 8, Shang-Chi will have the field to itself (alongside, ironically, Free Guy and Jungle Cruise) among adult-skewing (The Many Saints of Newark, Cry Macho) post-summer fare and horror movies like Candyman, Malignant and Halloween Kills. Shang-Chi may open “low” for MCU, but I’d expect legs closer to Guardians of the Galaxy than Captain America: Civil War.
Oh, and an FYI, Fandango is reporting that the film pulled the second-best pre-sales of the year (behind Black Widow), and the polling of 1,500 moviegoers noted that… 90% are looking forward to Simu Liu’s star turn, 89% are excited to see the first MCU movie led by an Asian and Asian American cast and 88% want to see how the film will continue Marvel’s Phase 4 storyline. None of that is mind-blowing, but the more you know…