Disney reports this morning that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings scored $29.6 million on opening day Friday, virtually setting a new industry standard for Labor Day weekend in a single day.
Shang-Chi is crushing all pre-release forecasts, tracking, and industry expectations in a way that seemed increasingly possible during the final days leading up to opening, but still highly optimistic in a market that continues to face mixed consumer sentiment levels due to the ongoing pandemic.
The opening day haul includes Thursday night’s $8.8 million start, but in total, the first 30 hours or so of Shang-Chi‘s domestic box office start has already exceeded every three-day and four-day Labor Day weekend performance in history short of Halloween (2007)‘s $30.6 million four-day opening.
Massive Labor Day records were to be expected given the unprecedented nature of Disney and Marvel Studios’ choice to buck historic trends and open a major tentpole over a weekend that has been mostly known as a dumping ground for the end of summer in pre-pandemic times. That’s no longer the case, and moviegoers are showing once again that the right content — even in the middle of a pandemic — will attract ticket sales in a big way.
Comparisons are inevitable here, starting within the Marvel universe itself. Shang-Chi registered only 25 percent behind Black Widow‘s $39.5 million opening day almost two months ago. Granted, that film was likely hindered by its day-and-date streaming availability, but it was also a film with a much more well-known character and star.
On more level terms, Shang-Chi blew past the $22.65 million opening day of July 2015’s Ant-Man by 31 percent, and came in just 9 percent shy of Doctor Strange‘s $32.6 million start in November 2016.
Among pandemic releases, Marvel’s latest film achieved the third highest opening day of any film since before March 2020 lockdowns. Only Widow and June’s F9 ($29.9 million) were higher.
With regard to all September releases in box office history, Shang-Chi‘s opening day is also third behind only It ($50.4 million) and It: Chapter Two ($37 million).
The achievement here can’t easily be overstated, and a major aspect to emphasize is its ceiling-shattering nature as the first Asian and Asian-American-led superhero film under the direction of Destin Daniel Cretton with a breakout star performance from Simu Liu, a buzzy supporting role from Awkwafina, and an all-around strong cast that includes several surprises for the Marvel faithful.
It’s very important to watch and see what happens with the post-rush of Marvel fans beginning with Saturday’s drop (especially after Widow‘s notoriously steep drop-off), but word of mouth is excelling with a stellar 98 percent Rotten Tomatoes audience score, the long holiday weekend will be beneficial to internal weekend multipliers, the film faces very little competition throughout all of September, and most importantly to the industry, it’s exclusive to theaters for 45 days.
Currently, industry projections range from still-conservative to cautiously bullish. That’s the reasonable approach to take here given the complete absence of historic precedence for this kind of film releasing in this particular window during a volatile time for public health and the entertainment industry at large.
With that in mind, we’re currently projecting between $65 million and $72 million for the three-day haul, and $75 million to $87 million for the four-day holiday weekend.
Internationally, Disney also reports the film scored $23.4 million through Friday, giving it a global cume of $53 million entering Saturday.