Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will earn another $20 million in weekend three as it speeds past A Quiet Place part II and Sonic the Hedgehog on Hollywood’s list of 2020/2021 global hits.
The bad news is that Destin Daniel Cretton’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings isn’t going to pass Black Widow domestically ($184 million) or worldwide ($370 million) fast enough to save my butt in the box office summer movie gamble with which I’m competing (no money, just honor and bragging rights). The good news is, aside from mourning at least some of its competition (do try to catch James Wan’s Malignant), pretty much everything else. On its third Friday of domestic theatrical release, Shang-Chi nabbed another $5.8 million (-40%) to bring its 15-day total up to $160.99 million domestic. That puts it just over the $160 million cume of Paramount’s A Quiet Place part II, making it the third-biggest domestic grosser of 2021.
But it should earn around $20.5 million (-41%) in weekend three for a $175.7 million 17-day cume. That’ll put it just above F9 ($173 million) for the silver medal. With a hold like that, it’ll be past Black Widow by the end of next weekend and on its way to $200 million just in time to face off with Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Day 45 (which is when the theatrical window can theoretically end) will be on October 17, so we could see the film debut on Disney+, PVOD or related post-theatrical streams on Tuesday the 19th, after it’s already dueled Venom 2, No Time to Die and Halloween Kills and prepares to fend off Dune on October 22.
Yes, a big part of Shang-Chi’s success has been a lack of tentpole competition, with the late-season Disney releases (Free Guy, Jungle Cruise and Shang-Chi) running the tables. However, there’s no reason to assume it’ll drop dead at the first real challenge, nor will it vanish from theaters as soon as it becomes available elsewhere. I’ve long noted that most big movies, even the ones we consider leggy (think The Dark Knight or The Force Awakens), do over/under 95% of their business by the end of weekend six, so being available outside of theaters at the end of weekend seven may make as little of a difference for Shang-Chi as it did for A Quiet Place part II (94% by day 45 with nominal drops after).
The MCU movie could continue to play like a regular leggy theatrical release even with brutal competition starting on day 21 and a shortened theatrical window. If so, it may end with an over/under $220 million domestic cume. When it passes Bad Boys For Life ($204 million), it’ll be the biggest domestic grosser since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ($515 million) in late 2019. Shang-Chi should be passing $300 million worldwide today. A continuing domestic/overseas split of 56/44 would give the film a $311 million global cume by this Sunday. That will put it behind only Tenet ($366 million), Black Widow ($370 million), Bad Boys for Life ($430 million) Godzilla Vs. Kong ($460 million) and F9 ($714 million) among 2020/2021 Hollywood releases.
Godzilla Vs. Kong and Fast & Furious 9 benefited from massive Chinese paydays ($188 million and $216 million, respectively), which Shang-Chi may not get. Even if it were to play in China, there’s no guarantee that it wouldn’t earn closer to Doctor Strange ($109 million) than Spider-Man: Far from Home ($199 million). It’s not like China is starving for big-budget tentpoles starring mostly Asian ensembles. While the MCU was more popular than ever (Captain Marvel nabbed $154 million in early-2019, eight months after Ant-Man and the Wasp earned $125 million) before Covid, big Hollywood movies partially made for (or partially made by) China had an over/under $150 million ceiling. Think, offhand, The Great Wall, The Meg and Kung Fu Panda 3.
Even if the film’s eventual under-$450 million global cume ends up low by post-Avengers MCU standards, it likely would have ended somewhere between Ant-Man ($519 million) and Ant-Man and the Wasp ($619 million) with an as-expected pre-Covid China run. I’d argue that it’s doing about as well, especially in North America, as it would have had it opened sans Covid (but with more competition) as intended in February of 2021. And even if it did take a hit from the pandemic, it’s a well-reviewed and well-received MCU origin story that solidifies the character as another successful brand for the Marvel machine, one useful both for a theoretical Shang-Chi 2 and valuable for Simu Liu’s “master of kung fu” to make crowd-pleasing appearances in other MCU movies.