WEEKEND BOX OFFICE RESULTS: SHANG-CHI HOLDS NO. 1 SEPTEMBER 10-12, 2021

This weekend offered yet another solid exhibit in the year-long debate over theatrical exclusives vs. day-and-date hybrids – especially when the latter is free as part of a subscription base. The big exclusive that broke a whole bunch of records last week and is primed to become the biggest film of the summer did exactly what the industry wanted it to do this week. Meanwhile, the biggest film debuting in theaters this weekend that is also available on HBO Max had one of the limpest openings of the year across many categories.

KING OF THE CROP: SHANG-CHI ON TRACK TO BE FIRST PANDEMIC-ERA $200 MILLION FILM
Disney, Marvel, and the industry in whole wanted to see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings gross $30 million this weekend – and it did, earning $35.8 million. And it’s been giving signs of box office robustness since it opened last week.

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With a little boost thanks to Labor Day, Shang-Chi became the 102nd film to gross over $100 million in its first five days. More importantly, it was the first film to do it during the pandemic. (Black Widow took six.) That number took it out of the range of the few stragglers we referred to last week, including Black Widow, that appeared to be on solid footing towards $200 million only to fall back hard in weekend two to numbers between $22 million and $28 million. Only two films out of those 102 fell below $30 million in their second outing: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ($29.46 million) and Solo: A Star Wars Story ($29.39 million). The other 100 were all over $30 million and ultimately got to $200 million.

After 10 days, that puts Shang-Chi’s total at $145.6 million. No film with $140 million in the bank in that stretch has ever failed to hit $200 million. Even 2014’s Godzilla just got over the hump with $200.67 million and it had a $30.94 million second weekend. Interestingly enough, the highest-grossing film after ten days to miss the milestone was Marvel’s Black Widow this summer, which had $131.6 million at this point and is finishing with close to $183 million. Of course, that film kept additional money from theaters through its Premier Access availability on Disney+.

Shang-Chi is now setting the lines for the forthcoming potential hits that will remain exclusive to theaters, such as No Time To Die, the Venom sequel, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Disney also took the step to assure theaters this week that they are committed to their partnership going forward with their live-action lineup – including 20th Century Studios releases – receiving a 45-day theatrical window before heading to streaming.

Warner Bros. did not offer much fanfare in promoting the latest film from the director whose last film, Aquaman, grossed $1.14 billion. With few press screenings and a late-review embargo, they weren’t even able to boast about Malignant‘s solid Tomatometer score of 75%. (Perhaps they were trying to hide the bonkers twist which we would never spoil here.) Ultimately, the horror movie opened with $5.6 million. How much the film was cheated out of at the box office for being available at home will be the source of further speculation. So let’s do that.

Free Guy became the seventh film of the year to pass the $100 million marker this weekend, moving back up to second place with another $5.8 million. That’s the second-highest fifth weekend of the year behind only A Quiet Place Part II ($6.19 million). That also puts it slightly ahead of Jungle Cruise’s pace at the same period and that film (still in the top five) will shortly cross $110 million.

In other horror film news, Nia DaCosta’s Candyman update fell 53% in week three to $4.93 million bringing its total to $48 million. That is now lining it up to be in the orbit of The Suicide Squad’s $55 million, but likely a bit lower when all is said and done. Don’t Breathe 2, also a theatrical exclusive, managed to join the semi-exclusive $30 million club this weekend. It was just the 20th film of 2021 to achieve that, compared to 25 films opening in 1800 theaters or more not to do so. It will be interesting to see how Halloween Kills does next month now that Universal has decided to stream it simultaneously on its Peacock service.

Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter is worthy of some history this weekend grossing $1.1 million in 580 theaters. It may be of superficial significance to the legend who wrote Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, but it’s the first directorial effort of Schrader’s to open with over a million dollars since 1987’s Light of Day with Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett started with $3.53 million. The film is also a hit with critics (86% on the Tomatometer), ranking up there with some of his highest directorial scores, including Blue Collar (98%), First Reformed (93%), Mishima (89%), Affliction (88%), Light Sleeper (88%). As stated, legend.

Malignant‘s $5.6 million is lower than Wan’s 2007 follow-up to his Saw debut, Dead Silence ($7.84 million) and only slightly higher than his weakest opening, the underrated Death Sentence ($4.23 million) later that same year. Wan returned to straight horror with Insidious, which became a solid word-of-mouth success spawning three sequels, including one which he directed that opened to $40.27 million. In between, he began The Conjuring universe, with the first film in that franchise opening to $41.85 million. There was a sequel to that ($40.27 million opening) and the giants Furious 7 ($147.18 million opening) and Aquaman ($67.87 million start on its way to $335 million domestic).

This is the fifth film (out of 12 releases) this year in WB’s HBO Max day-and-date experiment to open to under $6 million. Two of those films (The Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah) were released before the larger vaccine rollout. Two others (Those Who Wish Me Dead, Reminiscence) had more star power than Malignant. None of these films were as IP-friendly as the other releases that performed better, with the exception of possibly In the Heights, which opened to $11.5 million and still disappointed many with that number. Godzilla vs. Kong is still the only film released day-and-date to theaters and HBO Max to reach $100 million. We’ll see if Dune and The Matrix Resurrections can still overcome the convenience of a home option.

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