With Venom: Let There Be Carnage burning up the domestic box office ($6 million on Monday for a $96 million four-day cume), No Time to Die kicking butt overseas and The Battle of Lake Bringjin passing $400 million in China alone, Marvel and Disney’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings earned $510,000 on Monday. Yes, that’s a nominal amount for its 32nd day of domestic release. However, that’s enough to push its cume to $206.69 million, which means it has now passed the domestic cume of Thor: The Dark World ($206.3 million in 2013). More importantly, it has passed the$206.3 million gross of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s Bad Boys for Life, meaning the Simu Liu-starring MCU actioner is the biggest-grossing movie of 2021 and 2020.
Yes, this is an arbitrary milestone. Once the new year begins, the clock resets. The Avengers may have been the top-grossing domestic earner of 2012 (with $623 million), but that didn’t prevent Texas Chainsaw 3-D from briefly becoming the biggest earner of 2013 even with a mere $22 million debut weekend in the first weekend in January. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace earned more in 1999 ($431 million) than did anything that opened between itself and Shrek 2 ($441 million) in mid-2004. Nonetheless, The Grinch ($260 million) was still the biggest of 2000, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone ($318 million) was still tops in 2001, Spider-Man ($402 million) still ruled 2002 and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($373 million) still “won” in 2003.
Considering the world just two months after Sony’s R-rated and critically-acclaimed action comedy overperformed (partially by being much better than expected), it’s worth noting 2021 won’t be the first year since 1995 (led by Toy Story) without a $200 million grosser. It may not be the second year (in a row) since 1998 (led by the $217 million-grossing Saving Private Ryan) to have no over-$220 million earners. Shang-Chi should get there by the end. Of what’s left in 2021, only Venom: Let There Be Carnage (passing $100 million today), No Time to Die, Eternals, Encanto, Matrix Resurrections, Sing 2 and Spider-Man: No Way Home have a shot in hell of passing Shang-Chi. Some of those are more likely (Eternals) than others (Matrix 4), but it won’t be Kings Man.
2020, even prior to Covid, was initially filled with mostly smaller-scale tentpoles. Heck, Bad Boys For Life might still have remained the top domestic earner of the year even sans-Covid right up until Wonder Woman 1984 (which was likely a lock for $325-$375 million domestic) in June. Mulan, No Time to Die, A Quiet Place part II, Black Widow and F9 were “candidates,” but none were guaranteed. 2000 was the last year before 2020 without a $300 million-plus earner, and we’ll see if anything (Spider-Man: No Way Home?) can notch that milestone right at Christmas. If only Spider-Man does the deed, then Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings may end 2021 as the first or second-biggest domestic grosser (give or take Spider-Man 3 version 2.0).
Shang-Chi is likely going to end the year as the first or second-biggest domestic grosser. Moreover barring a happy surprise in the first third of 2022, it will likely remain the high water mark up over or under Spider-Man: No Way Home until at best The Batman and/or Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in March of next year. As for a mega-hit domestic release that isn’t a DC/Marvel superhero flick, well, at best John Wick: Chapter 4 or Top Gun: Maverick (whichever one sticks with the Memorial Day 2022 release) and at worst Jurassic World: Dominion in June. Yes, I will be amused if Keanu Reeves’ Matrix 4 and Keanu Reeves’ John Wick 4 both soar to infinity and beyond, but that’s for another day.