‘Shang-Chi’: First Asian American Marvel Superhero Movie Resurrecting Box Office & Breaking Labor Day Records With $75M-$85M

Saturday AM: Disney is proving they can open a Marvel movie anywhere on the calendar, even during a pandemic, as Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings posted the third-best opening day during the pandemic with $29.6M (just behind F9‘s $29.9M), with what will feasibly be the biggest Labor Day opening weekend of all-time with $75M-$85M+ over four-days.

On a three-day measure, Shang-Chi is estimated to bring in $67.8M, which is the third-best debut during Covid times after Black Widow‘s $80.3M and F9‘s $70M.

Shang-Chi

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”
Disney

As star Simu Liu aptly said about the prospects about Shang-Chi at the box office in refuting Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s remarks that the latest MCU movie is “an interesting experiment” because of its 45-day theatrical window: “We are not an experiment. We are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers. We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year. We are the surprise.” Amen.

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If any rival studio executives out there are slamming, “Well, Marvel movies typically open higher at the box office,” you’d best stay quiet, because you’ve never had an enormous opening at the Labor Day weekend box office quite like this.

This is a fantastic start to the fall (even though it’s the last weekend of summer), which will keep exhibition humming before the expected October blockbuster month of No Time to Die, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and Dune. The overall weekend box office for all films is expected to file around $130M, +8% over 2019’s $120.8M four-day Labor Day frame stretch.

If business is so great, then why did Paramount just move Top Gun: Maverick to 2022? Well, it boils down to the international markets not being back. However, Disney is willing to grab whatever they can at this point in time, and Shang-Chi counts $23.4M from 46 markets for a $53M global gross to date in its first day.  The pic was No. 1 in all key offshore markets, including posting the biggest opening day of the pandemic era in the UK.

Shang-Chi was always intended to go in 2021. At various points, Disney had the movie dated this year on July 30, then Feb. 12, then May 7, and then July 9, before gambling on Labor Day weekend.

Marvel gets its 16th ‘A’ CinemaScore here with Shang-Chi (we’re not counting A-s or A+s in there), with Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak audience exits at 5 out of 5 stars, 91% positive, and a super 78% recommend. Kids under 12 gave it 93% in the top two boxes and a 70% recommend. Shang-Chi pulled in 62% males, 51% under 25, and the moviegoing dominant quad of 18-34 at 60%.  Diversity mix was 36% Caucasian, 23% Asian/other, 23% Latino and 18% Black.

The pic, as expected, played best on the coasts, especially the West, with nine out of ten theaters coming out of NY and LA. The AMC Metreon in San Francisco was the only venue to crack that top ten list. Imax, premium large format and 3D are driving 37% of ticket sales to date. Industry estimates expect a 34% decline between Friday (+Thursday previews and Saturday’s ticket sales of $19.67M. If you back out Thursday previews from Friday, then Shang-Chi‘s technical Saturday daily hold is -7%.

The campaign for Shang-Chi arguably kicked off at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, when Liu was introduced for the title role, along with Cretton directing.

Among Disney’s marketing efforts to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, as we told you, there was a partnership with Gold House for two exclusive #GoldOpen premieres, VIP events in Los Angeles and New York. The L.A. event was at the El Capitan, with a post-screening Q&A with director Destin Daniel Cretton, Liu and Meng’er Zhang, moderated by the pic’s star Awkwafina.

Gold House also created the Shang-Chi Gold Open community fund on GoFundMe. The goal was to keep fans in the loop about the film’s major theater buyout campaigns and connect them with a standalone fundraiser to raise proceeds for underserved API youth so that they can see themselves represented on the big screen during opening weekend. The organization also joined forces with the film’s talent and soundtrack artists Niki and Audrey Nuna to amplify favorite Chinese restaurants in LA, NYC and San Francisco.

Disney received vast support from CBO and Young Professional Groups through newsletter blasts, social media inclusions and Fandango giveaways, including National Association of Asian American Professionals, UniPro, Asian Cinevision, Welcome to Chinatown, Homecoming New York. The studio also teamed with IW Group, known for their work with AAPI influencers, to promote the film. Disney, of course, got out there and field screened this movie in major markets, including a special Imax fan screening on Aug. 25, with tour stops in Hawaii, Cretton’s home state, and San Francisco where a portion of the movie was filmed. Exhibition were wowed with a special screening of Shang-Chi at CinemaCon last week.

Holy bajeezus pic.twitter.com/rrDPk4R0Mp

— Simu Liu (刘思慕) (@SimuLiu) September 1, 2021

One of the promotional partners on Shang-Chi, Sanzo, is releasing a limited edition version of their most popular flavor, Lychee. Sanzo was founded and managed by Asian American Pacific Islander leaders, who also put great resources into general market and multicultural press and influencer outreach.

The studio also created and marketed a soundtrack with the support of Pan-Asian artists, and worked with Interscope and 88rising. There was a special trailer featuring DJ Snake and Rich Ross. Rich Brian’s track “Run It” was created and debuted on DJ Snake’s YouTube and across the official Shang-Chi social platforms; “Run It” was also named as the official anthem of ESPN’s college football campaign. There was a custom TV spot featuring film track “In The Dark” by Swae Lee, Jhene Aiko, and custom content was produced to celebrate the API experience and set to various tracks produced in collaboration with 88rising with Artists including Niki, Audrey Nuna, and many others.

Advance tickets went on sale on Aug. 16; besting those of F9 heading into opening weekend. Disney eventized this movie across their social platforms, Marvel, and supporting partners, including Twitter emoji launch, premium large format poster debuts and circuit exclusives, and a Fandango clip debut and director interview.

One Disney synergy included Shang-Chi and Death Dealer characters at the new Avengers Campus during opening week. There was also a Disney Springs takeover. Ad spots ran during MLB/NBA/college Football and Bachelor in Paradise, Celebrity Family Feud, The Hustler, Holey Moley, ESPN SportsCenter, When Nature Calls With Helen Mirren; there was also Freeform and Hulu custom content.

Promo partners in addition to Sanzo included Microsoft, which had a 360 campaign across business units with Xbox as the anchor delivering custom consoles and an AR activation through LA Live and Times Square billboard placements. BMW was the global car sponsor appearing at the U.S., European, premieres with a Munich stunt around the International Motor Show in Germany and an exhibit at the Grove in Los Angeles. International sponsors included Visa/Brazil, Virgin Plus/Canad, TIM/Italy, Mikron/Russia, and BGF/Korea.

Universal

Outside of Shang-Chi at the B.O., there’s the second weekend of Universal/MGM’s Candyman which did $2.8M yesterday, -69% for what is looking to be a 3-day of $10.4M (-53%) and a 4-day of $13.3M for a running total through 11 days of $41.8M. Excellent.

Top 5 for this weekend:

1.) Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings (Dis) 4,300 theaters Fri $29.6M/3-day $67.8M/4-day $75M-$85M/Wk 1

2.) Candyman (Uni) 3,569 theaters Fri $2.8M/3-day $10.4M/4-day: $13.3M/Total $41.7M/Wk 2

3.) Free Guy (20th/Dis) 3,885 theaters (-55) Fri $2.1M/3-day $8.9M (-32%)/4-day $11.4M/Total $94.5M/Wk 4

4.) Paw Patrol (Par) 3,004 theaters (-185) Fri $960K/3-day $4.1M (-38%)/4-day $5.38M/Total $31.7M/Wk 3

5.) Jungle Cruise (Dis) 3,075 (-295) theaters Fri $885K/3-day $3.7M (-26%)/4-day $5M/Total: $106.7M/Wk 6

UPDATED, Friday midday: It was always going to be a record-setting Labor Day weekend, but exactly how high will Shang-Chi fly?

At this early point in time we can tell you that Disney/Marvel’s Destin Daniel Cretton-directed movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is looking to do $25 million today, including last night’s $8.8M in previews. That would be the third-highest opening day during the Covid era after Black Widow‘s $39.5M and F9‘s $29.9M.

Shang-Chi‘s three-day total looks to be around $60M, with the potential to do in the mid- to high-$60M range over four days. That’s poised to be 126% higher than the previous Labor Day weekend record opener, 2017’s Halloween. It could even go much higher, but we’ll have a better idea tomorrow morning. This is according to industry estimates, not Disney.

Look, it’s still early: Even if Shang-Chi comes in over four days in the high $50M range, understand, it’s still a domestic B.O. record. Overall, even by pre-pandemic standards, that’s a phenomenal Labor Day weekend, and one of the best weekends we’ve seen this year.

Exhibitors have a lot to be thankful for here as Disney has Shang-Chi on a 45-day theatrical day window. Early PostTrak audience exits show 5 stars for the first Asian-American Marvel superhero movie, with a 99% fresh audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”
Disney

Social media analytics firm RelishMix shows chatter across Facebook and Instagram, YouTube views and Twitter reach of 387.2M, “26% above pre-Covid norms,” with video consumption on Facebook just over 45M and over 165M on YouTube with a sold platform balance and strong viral reposting rate of 28:1.

Reports RelishMix, “Chatter runs deep with debates about Stan Lee’s inspiration of Bruce Lee and the potential for Brandon Lee as a fitting character until his on-set accident — the ten rings and “The Mandarin” clan possessing other kinds of ‘relics’ and which villains he will face. Fans of the Korean boy band Got7 are sewing threads of enthusiasm looking forward to bandmates Mark Tuan (seen at the premiere in Hollywood) and Jackson Wang on the soundtrack. Jackie Chan mentions also stand out as he is worshiped as the pioneer of the genre.”

Among the social media stars are Awkwafina and her 2.1M fans, Simu Liu with 1.1M, Fala Chen with 1.5M and Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu at 691,000. In the mix are key soundtrack artists who are delivering strong engagement from their fanbases including Tuan with 19.1M fans, DJ Snake from Paris with 16.4M fans and Rich Brian at 6.7M; they are posting music clips, stills and trailers.

Awkwafina’s post of her golf-cart journey around the studio lot on the Shang-Chi Instagram handle pulled in over 101K views:

Spider-Man: No Way Home

‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’
Sony Pictures

Exhibition industry analytics corp EntTelligence reports that the early audience occupancy for Shang-Chi leans 69% male, 31% female. Non-family is 78%, while family groups are 14% and teen groups 8%. Any studio that trailered on Shang-Chi last night per EntTelligence reached over 600K impressions. The highest ticket prices coming in were from Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco at $15.30, $17.30 and $16.03, respectively.

Among those pics trailering on Shang-Chi, there’s Sony’s recent Spider-Man: No Way Home appearing limitedly at Regal and CPX, with the soon-to-be-released Venom: Let There Be Carnage showing up across AMC, Cinemark and a large number of Regal theaters. Disney treated MCU fans to a new trailer for Eternals, clocking in at 2 minutes 58 seconds, as their attachment. And in an unexpected twist, Lionsgate treated audiences to Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 sci-fi classic Ghost in the Shell, which is being rereleased September 17, specially remastered for 4K, and screening in Imax. Lionsgate also before Shang-Chi showed the new trailer for Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall, to be released February 4, 2022. Universal, I hear, is targeting a 37-second trailer for Halloween Kills that encourages fans to experience the film on the big screen. The spot is currently playing at Cinemark, Marcus and National Amusements.

We’ll have more updates for you as they come.

PREVIOUSLY, Friday AM: For the pandemic, Disney/Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings posted a solid Thursday night preview gross especially before a slow Labor Day box office frame, with $8.8 million from showtimes that began at 6 p.m. On the high side, that figure is above the Thursday night start of Universal’s F9, which posted $7.1M before slotting the second-best opening day of the pandemic of $29.9M (previews repped 24% of that number) and second-best weekend of $70M.

We had been hearing that advance ticket sales were running ahead of F9 and A Quiet Place Part II, so Shang-Chi‘s Thursday makes sense.

The question is how front-loaded Thursday is in regards to the rest of the weekend; there’s a lot of hope that this movie will be a sleeper that feasibly owns the month of September. The Destin Daniel Cretton-directed Marvel Cinematic Universe title opens in 4,300 locations today. Total global launch is estimated between $90M-$100M. A domestic record Labor Day weekend opening is in store, besting the $30.6M four-day start of 2007’s Halloween. 

Shang-Chi‘s Thursday is less than Black Widow‘s $13.2M, ranking second overall for previews during Covid. Now, before someone goes out defending the theatrical day-and-date model (that Scarlett Johansson movie hit Disney+ Premier on its opening day), note that it goes back to product, and Black Widow was a long-awaited Marvel movie held throughout the pandemic. Shang-Chi is deeper-universe MCU, and a new hero for the big screen. As buzz clicks, audiences will discover this film. Black Widow posted the biggest opening day during the pandemic and weekend, respectively, with $39.5M and $80.3M. Black Widow‘s Thursday night repped 33% of its opening Friday.

Separately, in a Fandango poll of 1,500 moviegoers earlier in the week, 90% were looking forward to the star-making performance of Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, 89% were excited to see the first MCU movie led by an Asian and Asian American cast, while 88% wanted to see how the film will continue Marvel’s Phase 4 storyline.

Why is Disney programming a movie over Labor Day weekend, a notoriously sluggish end to the summer box office? Essentially, they’re of the philosophy that a Marvel movie can open anywhere on the calendar. Warner Bros has mined great riches with horror films in the post Labor Day frame with It (a September record of $123.4M), It Chapter 2 ($91M) and The Nun ($53.8M). They’ll have James Wan’s Malignant next weekend in theaters and on its streaming service HBO Max; the conundrum there is that they’re keeping the lid on any spoilers for the movie in the marketing campaign.

Many in the industry will try and fault the pandemic for any shortfall, or less than standard, on Shang-Chi this weekend. But, remember, it’s Labor Day weekend, and by pre-pandemic standards Shang-Chi is a hit. Next to last year at this time with Warner Bros’ Tenet, we’re light years ahead: New York and LA weren’t open a year ago, and arguably many in the U.S. didn’t really know that cinemas had reopened wherever they were. The Christopher Nolan movie made $11.6M over four days.

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