Weekend Box Office (September 3 - 6, 2021)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Marvel unveiled its latest super hero saga Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings powering its way to the biggest Labor Day weekend opening of all-time. By a mile! The PG-13 adventure debuted to spectacular results with an estimated $90M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday holiday session including a robust $75.5M across the Friday-to-Sunday portion.

This was the second largest opening weekend for any film so far during the pandemic surpassing the $70M for the much-hyped F9 from June and only trails the $80.4M of fellow MCU film Black Widow from July which also had a day and date release on Disney+ for $30. Despite a new hero being brought to the big screen for the first time, the turnout was enormous driven by the Marvel brand. And with no streaming option to divide the audience, this one was exclusive to cinemas helping to pump the grosses.

Reviews for Shang-Chi were fantastic across the board and the audience report card had some of the best grades of any film all year. The CinemaScore was an A and the PostTrak score was 5 out of 5 stars. On Rotten Tomatoes, the critics score was 92% while the audience figure was a near-perfect 98%. Doesn't get much better than this. With so much love from fans, plenty of moviegoers not familiar enough with the character to rush out on opening weekend, and a light September calendar ahead, Shang-Chi has an extremely promising road ahead at the box office and could challenge Widow's $182.6M as the top grossing movie of 2021. Hey, it's halfway there after just four days.

The new MCU film opened in 4,300 locations and posted muscular averages of $17,558 over three days and $20,930 over four. All around, these are pre-pandemic numbers here! It also accounted for a whopping 68% of all ticket sales in the Top Ten dominating the marketplace the exact same way Black Widow did on its opening. In both cases, Disney planted its flag on the release date and competing studios stayed the F away.

Shang basically matched the $75.8M opening of 2018's Ant-Man and the Wasp - another MCU film opening in the summer. And that was a sequel playing in pre-pandemic times. Shang had the benefit of a Monday holiday which helped the Sunday gross, but to reach this level with a new character and during a pandemic is absolutely incredible. Wasp went on to finish at $216.6M.

The daily breakdown saw $29.6M on opening day Friday including $8.8M from Thursday pre-shows, a 22% drop on Saturday to $23.2M, a scant 2% dip on Sunday to $22.7M, and then an estimated 36% slide on Monday to $14.5M. The Sunday and Monday figures are the best for any film during covid times while Saturday is second best, just a hair behind Black Widow's $23.3M. Unlike BW and F9, Shang-Chi will have the majority of schools being open during the midweek period so that may factor into the full week figures. Still, it may be in nine-digit territory by the start of the second weekend.

Demographic breakdowns showed that the crowd was 61% male and 51% under 25. Fans found it worthwhile to pay extra for the best experience as 34% of the gross came from premium formats. A ticket for a showing in IMAX 2D costs as much as $26 in New York City.

Technically, Shang broke the all-time Labor Day opening weekend record. Now, studios normally do not program big tentpoles onto this weekend given that it is historically slow with summer ending and the fall season getting started. So Labor Day always has the lowest numbers for its record holders compared to other holiday frames. But the old record did in fact fall. The 2007 remake of Halloween held that title for 14 years. It did a then-astounding $30.6M over four days while Shang-Chi basically tripled that number. The Marvel movie also cost a lot more to produce, however the comic giant proved that it could open its movies at any spot on the calendar and fans will come out. Also impressive - Shang is the third biggest September opening of all-time trailing just the pair of It horror hits.

Many overseas markets launched this weekend alongside North America, although key markets like China and many Southeast Asian territories did not. The international gross through Sunday was $56.2M, a fantastic amount. That makes the global opening weekend through Sunday $131.7M with the worldwide total through Monday near the $150M mark with plenty of playability ahead.

Last week's top movie Candyman fell to second place with an estimated $13.4M over four days. The three-day figure of $10.5M dropped a sharp 52% from the opening which is in line with fright flicks. Universal has taken in $41.9M overall so far and the film stands a good chance of becoming only the third R-rated movie of the pandemic to break $50M after The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and The Suicide Squad.

Ryan Reynolds got closer to the $100M club with his sleeper hit action-comedy Free Guy which did a four-day estimate of $11.2M in its fourth weekend to boost its domestic tally to a fantastic $94.4M. Good reviews, sensational word-of-mouth, and star power have helped this 20th Century pic become a long-lasting hit. Soon it will become the next summer movie to join the century club, and yet another for the Disney family. Overseas markets have contributed an estimated $147.4M to date including a terrific $57M from China where the legs have been strong as well. Global for Free Guy is now $241M.

The kidpic Paw Patrol followed with an estimated $5.2M bumping Paramount's cume up to a respectable $31.5M. The G-rated pic is also streaming on Paramount+. Disney's big-budget star-driven adventure comedy Jungle Cruise collected an estimated $5.2M as well in its sixth round pushing the domestic total to $106.9M. It's also available at home on Disney+ for a $30 fee.

Don't Breathe 2 scared up an estimated $2.8M and the horror sequel has taken in $28.5M for Sony. The Aretha Franklin film Respect followed with an estimated $1.5M in its fourth weekend. UA has grossed $22.2M to date. Both are also available at home on PVOD for $20.

The Suicide Squad, which just completed its HBO Max run and is now a cinema-exclusive as of Labor Day, fell sharply and did an estimated $1.1M. Warner Bros. has done only $54.6M in North America with international markets adding $107.8M for a global box office of $162.4M. With Black Widow being paired with Shang-Chi at drive-in theaters and splitting the grosses, the Marvel heroine jumped back up the charts and collected $893,000 this weekend. Cume to date is $182.6M - still the top domestic hit during the entire pandemic. Rounding out the top ten was The Night House with an estimated $674,000 for a total of $6.4M for Searchlight.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $132M over the four-day weekend. The box office was still in reopening mode a year ago when Tenet was using this holiday to launch, but this weekend's figure was up a sturdy 57% from 2019 when Angel Has Fallen remained in the top spot with $15.4M over the long Labor Day session.

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Last Updated: September 6, 2021 at 2:30PM ET

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