For the first time since Captain Marvel in March 2019, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will welcome a brand new leading character to the sprawling franchise when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings makes its debut over Labor Day weekend.
With only three weeks until release, fans and theater owners are gearing up for what will be the first theatrically exclusive Marvel Studios release in cinemas since July 2019’s Spider-Man: Far from Home. What can be expected from the 25th MCU film in the current pandemic climate?
- It goes without saying that the Marvel Studios brand is as close to a sure-bet as there is, not just in the world of movies, but in the entertainment industry at-large. Black Widow‘s solid $80 million box office debut in North America underscored that strength in July, as have three massively successful streaming series on Disney+ this year. That makes this the type of franchise-centric film that could reel in casual moviegoers, and it will be available only in cinemas for 45 days.
- Appeal to Asian-American audiences will be significant as the first major superhero of Asian descent joins the evergreen mythos of the MCU. Such an underserved moviegoing demographic previously drove Crazy Rich Asians to enormous box office success in 2018, while also representing a significant make-up of pandemic-era recovery opening weekends like those of Godzilla vs. Kong and Demon Slayer: Mugen Train.
- Debuting over Labor Day weekend is an unprecedented move for any Hollywood tentpole release as the weekend has often been seen as the buffer between summer and fall movie seasons. As such, the bar for Shang-Chi to achieve a record for the holiday frame isn’t particularly high (even by pandemic standards): at $26.4 million over three days and $30.6 million in four days, 2007’s Halloween reboot from director Rob Zombie has held the Labor Day opening high mark for 14 years.
- Marketing has seen a significant jolt in recent weeks as Disney’s machine revved up consistent promotional spots during the Olympics and across other major television events and online platforms. As the next high-profile release on the schedule for movie theaters after August 13’s Free Guy, it’s safe to expect that push to continue building over the next three weeks.
- Marvel Studios has a strong history when it comes to mining unknown characters and stories into instant successes. A fair comparison in Shang-Chi‘s case may be that of Ant-Man, which even as a relatively contained film by that point in the franchise’s history drew a very respectable $57.2 million domestic opening back in July 2015 — legging out to $180.2 million and $520 million worldwide.
- As Disney’s first theatrically exclusive release of a tentpole film during the late pandemic and mid-vaccine era, this will be a true stress test of where moviegoing sentiment and comfort levels are at heading into the fall season. Recent moves to mandate vaccination passes in theaters across markets like New York City and Los Angeles could play an integral role in trends throughout the weeks ahead, potentially helping vaccinated moviegoers feel more safe to return.
- The state of the pandemic is integral to any and all forecasts right now, and a Marvel film is no exception. As of mid-August, moviegoer sentiment is down slightly from early summer highs due to the rise in severe virus cases and hospitalizations among the unvaccinated population. Research firm NRG reported earlier this week that moviegoing comfort levels stood at 67 percent as of Monday, August 9 — down from 70 percent one week earlier.
- It might be easy to compare a glass ceiling-shattering film like Shang-Chi to the enormous breakouts of Wonder Woman, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel, but this film’s circumstances are quite different. The former two of those comparisons were still relatively well-known and iconic names to the uninitiated, while Captain Marvel had already been briefly introduced to a massive audience at the end of Avengers: Infinity War and Marvel made sure to feature her prominently in all marketing leading up to the historic release of Avengers: Endgame.
The Ten Rings was alluded to as a terrorist organization in an easy-to-miss Easter egg all the way back in 2008’s Iron Man, but outside of that passing reference, Shang-Chi himself isn’t generally known beyond the most die hard fan circles.
- As mentioned, the Labor Day release is unprecedented for a major franchise film. While a number of mid-to-late September releases have shown the potential for blockbuster scheduling in past years (namely, the It movies, The Nun, two Hotel Transylvania films, and others), this is a holiday weekend many people are accustomed to using a final opportunity for a vacation or break before the full-fledged return to work and school in the fall.
- The aforementioned vaccination passes that will be required for cinemas in New York City, and potentially other markets by Labor Day, could potentially hinder some of the family audience that would typically show up for Marvel films given the all-ages appeal — specifically, kids under 12 who are not yet eligible for any COVID-19 vaccines — if regional governments don’t allow for exemptions. Details on that end have not yet been clarified.
Long Range Box Office Forecast & 2021 Calendar
(as of 8/13/21)
|Release Date||Title||3-Day (FSS) Opening Forecast Range||Domestic Total Forecast Range||Estimated Location Count||Distributor|
|8/20/2021||The Night House||$1,000,000 – $6,000,000||$2,500,000 – $15,000,000||2,000||Searchlight Pictures|
|8/20/2021||Paw Patrol||$4,000,000 – $9,000,000||$12,000,000 – $32,000,000||2,700||Paramount Pictures|
|8/20/2021||The Protégé||$3,000,000 – $8,000,000||$8,000,000 – $25,000,000||2,500||Lionsgate|
|8/20/2021||Reminiscence||$7,000,000 – $12,000,000||$20,000,000 – $40,000,000||3,300||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|8/27/2021||Candyman||$9,000,000 – $14,000,000||$24,000,000 – $35,000,000||3,400||Universal Pictures|
|9/3/2021||Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings||$35,000,000 – $55,000,000||$100,000,000 – $165,000,000||Disney / Marvel Studios|
|9/10/2021||The Card Counter||Focus Features|
|9/10/2021||Malignant||$11,000,000 – $16,000,000||$25,000,000 – $45,000,000||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|9/10/2021||Queenpins||$3,000,000 – $8,000,000||$6,000,000 – $25,000,000||STXfilms|
|9/17/2021||Blue Bayou||Focus Features|
|9/17/2021||Copshop||Open Road Films|
|9/17/2021||Cry Macho||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|9/17/2021||The Eyes of Tammy Faye||Disney / Searchlight Pictures|
|9/24/2021||Dear Evan Hansen||Universal Pictures|
|10/1/2021||The Addams Family 2||United Artists Releasing|
|10/1/2021||Hotel Transylvania: Transformania||Sony Pictures / Columbia|
|10/1/2021||The Jesus Music||Lionsgate / Kingdom Story Company|
|10/1/2021||The Many Saints of Newark||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|10/8/2021||No Time to Die||MGM|
|10/15/2021||Halloween Kills||Universal Pictures|
|10/15/2021||The Last Duel||Disney / 20th Century Studios|
|10/15/2021||Venom: Let There Be Carnage||Sony Pictures / Columbia|
|10/22/2021||Dune||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|10/22/2021||The French Dispatch||Disney / Searchlight Pictures|
|10/22/2021||Jackass Forever||Paramount Pictures|
|10/22/2021||Ron’s Gone Wrong||Disney / 20th Century Studios|
|10/29/2021||Antlers||Disney / Searchlight Pictures|
|10/29/2021||Last Night in Soho||Focus Features|
|11/5/2021||Eternals||Disney / Marvel Studios|
|11/11/2021||Ghostbusters: Afterlife||Sony Pictures / Columbia|
|11/19/2021||King Richard||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|11/19/2021||Top Gun Maverick||Paramount Pictures|
|11/24/2021||Encanto||Walt Disney Pictures|
|11/24/2021||House of Gucci||MGM / United Artists Releasing|
|11/24/2021||Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City||Sony Pictures / Columbia Pictures|
|12/3/2021||Nightmare Alley (Limited)||Disney / Searchlight Pictures|
|12/10/2021||American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story||Lionsgate|
|12/10/2021||Cyrano||United Artists Releasing|
|12/10/2021||Violence of Action||STXfilms|
|12/10/2021||West Side Story (2020)||Disney / 20th Century Studios|
|12/17/2021||Spider-Man: No Way Home||Sony / Columbia / Marvel Studios|
|12/22/2021||A Journal for Jordan (Wide Expansion)||Sony Pictures / Columbia Pictures|
|12/22/2021||The King’s Man||Disney / 20th Century Studios|
|12/22/2021||Untitled Matrix Sequel||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|12/22/2021||Sing 2||Universal Pictures|
|12/31/2021||(no releases scheduled)||—|
For more information on detailed and pinpoint forecasts, contact us for pricing and availability.
As always, the news cycle is constantly evolving as the pandemic dictates. Projections are subject to change amid breaking announcements.