Shang-Chi Rescues the 2021 Box Office


Mason Glod, Associate Producer, Beat Reporter

Shang Chi is the superhero that the box office needed, breaking the Labor Day weekend box office record. Released on Friday, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings made $75.5 million in its three-day opening weekend, expected to reach over $90 million in its four days holiday opening. The movie shattered early expectations of $45-50 million for its opening.

The movie comes at a time of great box office turmoil. While fellow Marvel flick Black Widow and juggernaut action film F9 restored some faith in the box office earlier in the summer, more recent films have painted a bleak picture. Superhero movie The Suicide Squad, released on August 6th, only made $26 million its opening weekend, massively underperforming. The Ryan Reynolds action movie Free Guy opened with a similar $28 million. These lower openings are mainly credited to the rise in the Delta variant. 

Shang Chi’s impressive performance comes from a combination of factors. Fan allegiance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe surely drove traffic to the blockbuster (as also demonstrated by Black Widow’s strong box office performance). Additionally, critics have given the movie a 92% on RottenTomatoes, making it the fifth highest-rated movie in the Marvel franchise; audiences rated the movie at a 98% on the website. Strong word of mouth likely boosted the movie’s numbers. Finally, Shang Chi is a four-quadrant movie, its focus on diversity definitely attracted a larger audience.

Shang Chi’s success will have a huge influence on studios and the 2021 release slate. Before the movie’s release, studios were losing confidence in the current release model. On September 1st, Paramount Pictures announced that they are moving their blockbuster films (including highly anticipated movies Top Gun: Maverick and Mission Impossible 7) out of 2021. Rumors have circulated that other studios were planning on doing the same. Now, this is less likely. Seeing Shang Chi’s success, studios can recognize that there is still money to be made at the box office.

While this news is positive, it is still too soon to say that the box office is “back to normal”. Shang Chi’s weekend-to-weekend hold will be crucial in determining how strong moviegoing currently is. Additionally, the film may be an unrealistic model for other box office movies due to its Marvel edge and its release strategy. Still, Shang Chi’s performance proves that many fans are still willing to go to the movie theater.