Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Tens of Millions, we’re back, and Other Box Office News.
Note: this article originally ran on Set the Tape (link).
OK, real talk before we get down to business: COVID is not over, not by a long shot. New variants are cropping up all the time which our current vaccines aren’t capable of fully repelling, our corrupt self-interested ruling parties and corporate masters collectively decided that full-on eradication and prevention were too much like hard work so now we are being forced into accepting this disease will be around forever, and motherfuckers are seriously refusing to get their arses vaccinated. Truth be told, we are unlikely to ever go back to the normal of pre-COVID times or, at the very least, it’s going to take a lot longer than 18 months to get there whilst new mutations emerge and less-developed nations are left without easy vaccine access. Things are still precarious, caution is still urged and, for our case, a lot of people are still justifiably uneasy about going back to the cinema. The days of multi-hundred-million-dollar openings are gone, the days of regular $100 million+ weekends are gone, and so expectations need to be rewritten accordingly. Honestly, I’m still kinda uncertain about restarting this series and the message its presence sends. But capitalism stops for no not-a-man, and more importantly I’ve been frequenting the cinema comfortably since the UK’s lockdown lifted, so let’s see how this goes.
Heading into the weekend, Disney CEO Bob Chapek called the release of Marvel’s newest feature, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, an “interesting experiment.” Not, as many (given the history of anti-Asian sentiment in the American movie industry) somewhat understandably assumed, because it was an all-Asian blockbuster with no traditionally bankable stars made and released in America. But rather because, unlike with all of Disney’s other theatrical releases so far this year – including, most notably Black Widow, a move which is working out great for them – Shang-Chi was exclusively releasing in cinemas for 45 days, rather than day-and-dating with Disney+ Premium. Given that American movie theatres have been struggling since the reopening circus began in earnest, with many big-name films demonstrating neither spectacular openings nor strong week-to-week holds and Warner Bros.’ HBO Max simul-release plan just cratering their movies, I think it is fair to call a traditional release something of an experiment nowadays, one the other studios would be watching with great anthropological interest.
Now, COVID-era releasing and the accompanying major sophomore slumps of big-opening movies does mean we shouldn’t count these unhatched chickens just yet, but for opening weekend at least the experiment appears to have paid off. Shang-Chi is obviously the chart ruler, bumping Nia DaCosta’s history-making Candyman down to second, and easily outgrossing the entire rest of the combined Top 10 twice over with change to spare. But it’s also by far the new record holder for Biggest Labor Day Opening Weekend of All-Time, smashing past both The Sixth Sense and Rob Zombie’s Halloween reboot (sources conflict on which truly held the record prior to now) with $71.4 million for the three-day. Sure, it didn’t manage to break Black Widow’s record for Biggest COVID-Era Opening of $80.3 million, but Shang-Chi did hold on much better day-to-day than its MCU predecessor – the former dropping 41% and 25% day-to-day likely due to that D+ simul-release, the newbie a much healthier 22% and 20% – and without the benefit of starring a character movie audiences have had a decade to fall in love with.
Again, everybody should remain calm with any prospective rapturous “CINEMA IS BACK, BABY!” takes in relation to this news. Partly cos this virus is still not done and don’t give a fuck about capitalism’s desire for normalcy, but mainly cos we have had big openers during this plague which collapsed hard in their second weekends. F9, the previous #2 COVID opener, crashed 67% in its sophomore frame without much competition, so the real test will be seeing how next weekend shakes out for Shang-Chi. That’s the kind of cautious expectation-rewriting we’re dealing with going forward, folks.
Kept ya waitin’, huh? Here’s a Full List for old time’s sake.
US Box Office Results: Friday 3rd September 2021 – Sunday 5th September 2021
1] Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
$71,400,000 / NEW
It’s time for another thrilling instalment of Nuclear Takes with Callie Petch!
The new Marvel movie is very good but held back from greatness by an overblown third-act and refusal to commit totally to the genre aesthetics’ tone.
This has been another thrilling instalment of Nuclear Takes with Callie Petch!
$10,550,000 / $39,063,370
My usage of the term “history-making” in reference to the new Candyman up above was because DaCosta’s horror revival last weekend became the first movie by a black female director to top the US Box Office in its entire recorded history. Incredible stuff and long, long, long overdue. According to another example of Black Girl Magic, our very own Kelechi Ehenulo, it’s also more than deserved.
3] Free Guy
$8,719,000 / $91,893,081
It’s been almost a month since release yet I still haven’t actually managed to get around to watching Free Guy yet. Trying to get on top of shit which released whilst I went into self-isolation following the attendance of that Gorillaz O2 gig has been a touch chaotic. Fortunately, this has turned out to be surprisingly resilient so I’ve still got time. Unlike, say, Reminiscence which was yanked from everywhere within seven days of opening (probably because it’s shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit).
$3,950,000 / $105,647,991
Quietly turned into one of the pandemic era’s biggest and most consistent performers so we’re getting a sequel with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt returning. Hopefully this time, they’ll make a less boring film. Since Jack Whitehall currently hasn’t been announced to return, though, this is already at least half-a-star better than the original.
5] PAW Patrol: The Movie
$3,695,000 / $30,019,661
DreamWorks Animation should take the fact that this is genuinely better and more entertaining than their last three movies as their “Black Cauldron getting trounced by The Care Bears Movie” moment.
6] Don’t Breathe 2
$2,210,000 / $27,990,920
I’ve only read the plot synopsis of the first Don’t Breathe and don’t plan on seeing either film due to my anxiety issues with horror movies, so maybe there’s some nuance in the execution I’m missing out on in my rush to judge. But I gotta say that trying to Terminator 2 the villain of the original Don’t Breathe, given the actions he committed both in-film and in the backstory to said film, is certainly… a choice.
$1,264,000 / $21,918,272
Out here this week in the UK, but Kelechi has seen it and told me that it’s full Walk Hard. So that means the wrong kid died. That this is a dark fuckin’ period. That you don’t want no part of this shit. I wonder if Aretha Franklin demands an army of digeridoos? FIFTY THOUSAND DIGERIDOOS! …ok, I’ll stop now.
$905,000 / $54,406,632
Ugh, this one saddens me. I’m not going to blame cinemagoers and insist more should’ve trekked out to theatres to see The Suicide Squad in the middle of a pandemic, as per that initial disclaimer which kicked off the whole article. Hell, this had a very good chance of outright flopping even if we did live in a world where the virus was successfully killed off and pre-stupid apocalypse levels of people flocked to cinemas again. Or at the very least if WB hadn’t kept to their dumbass HBO Max simul-release which so far has worked for Mortal Kombat and nothing else. But it still hurts, man. This thing is James Gunn’s masterpiece and my favourite film of the last two years, easy. More people should’ve seen it or deserved to see it, especially in a busy (masked) cinema like I got to twice. Still, just like my #2 Birds of Prey, I’m real glad this exists. Dave Bond has a more measured take.
9] Black Widow
$748,000 / $182,501,319
In other new release news, Leo Carax’s English-language debut, the Sparks musical Annette, came out in the UK this weekend and noted Holy Motors stan Joel Thornton gave it a looking over.
10] The Night House
$552,000 / $6,297,926
Meanwhile, voracious book consumer Amy Walker has put together a wish-list of the book series she’d like to see get adapted to television someday. I’m not kidding when I say “voracious,” either. She gets through books like I get through strawberries, makes me feel really uncultured yet also warm in the tummy on account of the excessive number of strawberries.
Dropped out: The Protégé, Old