‘Shang-Chi’ Debuts With A Marvel-ous $71.4 Million in North America; Shatters All-Time Labor Day Record
Theater owners got down on their knees and thanked the movie gods this weekend for the arrival of Marvel’s newest superhero extravaganza over the usually sleepy Labor Day frame. Disney’s latest entry in the MCU, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, blew past industry predictions and bowed to a Marvel-ous $71.4 million over the first three days of the long holiday weekend, making it the second-highest grossing film of the COVID era, just behind Black Widow’s $80.3 million back in July. Unlike that film, however, the Asian-themed Shang-Chi is playing exclusively in theaters and should thus prove to have longer legs than Scarlett Johansson & Co.’s epic, which simultaneously rolled out on Disney Plus.

Originally slated to hit theaters back in February, Shang-Chi proved to be worth the wait. The PG-13-rated film, which is Marvel’s first to feature an Asian superhero and be anchored by a cast and director of Asian origin, was expected to pull in between $45 and $50 million over its first weekend. But it quickly became clear that the movie—which stars Simu Liu along with Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, and Tony Leung—would blow past those bearish projections. In fact, Shang-Chi’s projected four-day holiday weekend haul of $83.5 million leaves the previous Labor Day box-office record holder, 2007’s Halloween (with $30.6), well in the dust. It was just the sort of news that nervous theater owners were hoping for.

With an impressive $13.2 million of its total receipts coming from IMAX screens, Shang-Chi proved to be a hit with both audiences (who gave the film a straight ‘A’ CinemaScore) but critics as well (who goosed the film to a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Unspooling in 4,300 locations, Marvel’s latest earned a whopping $16,604 per-screen average and added on another $56.2 million from overseas. While that may sound low it makes sense when you consider that the film still hasn’t been scheduled for release in China—one of Marvel’s biggest markets, especially considering the Asian-themed nature of Shang-Chi. Its one-week worldwide cume is $139.7 million. With little in the way of new competition from the major studios in the next couple of weekends and the film’s theatrical exclusivity for its first 45 days, Shang-Chi should continue to pull in big bucks until at least the beginning of October.

As for the runner-up spot, that honor went to last week’s champ, Candyman, which pulled in slightly more than $10.5 million domestically over the weekend’s first three days—a drop off of -52% from the previous session. The hook-handed horror flick is estimated to pull in a projected $13.4 million over the long four-day weekend. Universal’s R-rated chiller starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II earned a $2,956 per-screen average in 3,569 theaters, putting its two-week North American total at $41.9 million. To date, Candyman has added $10.9 from overseas, putting its global box office total at $52.9 million. Like Shang-Chi, it is only available in theaters...

As is the holiday weekend’s third place finisher: 20th Century Studios and Disney’s Free Guy. The irreverent PG-13-rated action comedy starring Ryan Reynolds raked in $8.7 million in the first three days of the long weekend and is projected to wind up with $11.2 after Monday’s receipts are tallied. Free Guy slipped -33.8% from the prior frame and managed a $2,244 per-screen average in 3,886 locations. After four weeks, the movie has racked up $94.3 million in North America and an impressive $147.4 million from abroad, bringing is current worldwide box office total to $241.7 million.

In fourth was Paramount’s tyke-targeted ‘toon, PAW Patrol: The Movie. The G-rated spin-off of the hit Nickelodeon kids’ show about a posse of helpful pups, bit off $4 million domestically between Friday and Sunday and is projected to boost that take to $5.2 million by the end of the long weekend. PAW Patrol fell -39.9% from the previous weekend, managing a $1,331 per-screen average at 3,004 locations. To date, the pups have racked up $31.5 million in North America and have dog-piled on an additional $50.3 million from overseas, putting the film’s worldwide take at $81.8 million.

Rounding out the top five was Disney’s Jungle Cruise, which added slightly more than $3.9 million in its sixth weekend (it is expected to finish the four-day frame with $5.2 million). The PG-13-rated white-water adventure starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt slipped a modest -21% from the prior session, earning a $1,284 per-screen average in 3,075 theaters. Having pushed past the $100-million domestic milestone last weekend (its current North American cume is $106.9 million), Jungle Cruise has added $86.9 million internationally, bringing its total worldwide haul to $193.8 million. The film was released day-and-date on the Disney Plus platform for a $30 surcharge. But now, with the massive success of Shang-Chi as a theaters-only release, Disney’s brass has some big decisions to make. Namely, will it release its next MCU title, Eternals, exclusively in theaters like Shang-Chi? Or will it go with the Black Widow streaming-hybrid model? Millions can be made or lost in these decisions. And, no doubt, the rest of the industry will be watching very closely.