The next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is here. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an important, and unique film in the MCU in many ways. It's the first film to introduce an entirely new hero since 2019's Captain Marvel. It's the first movie in the franchise to be led by an almost entirely Asian cast, and it's the first strictly theatrical release since the beginning of the global pandemic. There's a lot riding on this one potentially, so people are going to be watching the box office numbers closely. And on the film's first night in brought in a solid number, though one that was significantly lower than the previous MCU entry.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings brought in $8.8 million in domestic box office on Thursday night according to Exhibitor Relations Co. It's a solid preview night number. It exceeds the $7.1 million done by F9 which was a pandemic-era record at the time. However, it's significantly lower than the $13.2 million done by Black Widow. And considering that movie was released on Disney+ at the same time, it's always been assumed, that movie would have done better without the streaming release, which is essentially the basis of Scarlett Johansson's lawsuit against Disney.
More than likely there are a number of reasons which combined to make Shang-Chi come up a little short compared to Black Widow. First and foremost, while Shang-Chi is still an MCU movie, it is a brand new character, while Black Widow already had a fan base to draw from. There's also the fact that with delta variant spread it may be that audiences are, on the whole, less confident about going to the theater in general than they were even in early July.
Still, while Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings may have come up a little short on Thursday night, it's still on track to have a solid opening weekend. While Black Widow had a stronger Thursday night, it ended up with about $80 million for the opening weekend, only $10 million more than where F9 ended its opening weekend, despite doing barely more than half of Black Widow's preview night number. With that comparison, Shang-Chi is right in the mix and if the word of mouth is strong, it could end the weekend on top of both films.
With Shang-Chi only being released in theaters, the first major release from Disney to see that since the pandemic began, the box office is all the more important. Without the option to stream the film on Disney+ some audiences may decide that they're willing to go to the theater. At the same time, Shang-Chi is part of Disney's new 45-day theatrical widow schedule, meaning that the film should be hitting Disney+ in just a few weeks, and as such, some may be willing to wait.
While Disney certainly wants to see the film do well, CEO Bob Chapek has talked about the film is something of an "experiment" to see just how audiences will react. The answer to that question may greatly inform how Disney chooses to release its films going forward.
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