Shang-Chi Shatters A Big Record As The Marvel Blockbuster Dominates The Box Office In Its Opening Weekend

Awkwafina and Simu Liu as Katy and Shang-Chi looking happy in Shang-Chi And the Legend Of The Ten Rings

In case you hadn't noticed, it's been a strange and often troubling time in recent weeks for movie studios to release big blockbuster titles. Rising numbers of the COVID-19 Delta variant has stunted box office potential, and it has resulted not only in subdued numbers, but we're also starting to once again see some notable upcoming features changing their release dates. Given this atmosphere, there has been a great deal of curiosity surrounding Destin Daniel Cretton's new Marvel movie Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings. Going into its theatrical debut, there were questions regarding how its performance would stack up within the legacy of the world's most popular franchise, and if it would meet the standard that has been set. Now we have an answer in the form of record-breaking Labor Day weekend ticket sales.

Check out the full Top 10 below, and join me after for analysis!

Shang-Chi And the Legend Of The Ten Rings box office CinemaBlend September 3-5, 2021

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Movie TitleWeekend AmountTotal AmountChart Position Last WeekNumber of Screens
Shang-Chi & The Legend Of The Ten Rings*714000007140000004300
Free Guy87190009189308123885
Jungle Cruise395000010564799143075
PAW Patrol: The Movie36950003001966133004
Don’t Breathe 222100002799092052176
The Suicide Squad9050005440663271561
Black Widow74800018250131912750
The Night House552000629792691020
The Protégé525000689123081451

As I noted in my column last weekend, the final weeks of August/early weeks of September are not seen as a goldmine for studios, as people typically have more things going on in their lives than seeing movies – and that goes a long way in explaining why the previous box office record holder for biggest Labor Day weekend was Rob Zombie's Halloween, which brought in $30.6 million on the holiday (Friday to Monday) in 2006. Of course, this year marks the first time that Marvel Studios has ever put out a new title in September, and their films have a history of upending what is considered normal. We'll have to wait and see what the final total is after audiences spend part of their day off tomorrow seeing the blockbuster, but obviously the $71.4 million already earned blows the previous #1 out of the water.

It's a wonderful albeit rare thing to see a film break a pre-pandemic record these days, though it should also be noted that Shang-Chi And the Legend Of The Ten Rings hasn't quite set mid-pandemic records. Instead, these opening weekend numbers mean that the film has to settle for second place when it comes to ticket sales since March 2020. It made enough money domestically to beat our Justin Lin's F9, which earned $70 million in its first three days in late June, but it fell just a tad short of the $80 million that fellow Marvel release, Cate Shortland's Black Widow, pulled in back in early July. As you can see, the latter is still hanging out with its franchise cousin on the Top 10.

As ever, it's definitely better too look at the performance of the new release in the context of other movies in the last few months, as the opening frame for Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings ultimately doesn't look all that impressive when you stack it up compared to all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films going back to 2008. With its take, the film sits just outside the Top 20 opening weekends in the franchise, having made just a few million less than what Peyton Reed's Ant-Man And The Wasp earned in summer 2019. It does sit ahead of all of the non-Iron Man Paramount releases – including Kenneth Branagh's Thor ($65.7 million), Joe Johnston's Captain America: The First Avenger ($65.1 million), and Louis Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk ($55.4 million) – and also Peyton Reed's Ant-Man ($57.2 million).

What should also be noted is that Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, unlike Black Widow, was not given a hybrid release by Walt Disney Pictures, and is currently only available to watch in theaters. This in mind, there are going to be a lot of industry eyes on how well the film performs next week. Black Widow notoriously saw its numbers drop off in a crazy way in its sophomore weekend, and much of the blame has been put on the fact that the movie was available to watch via Premier Access on Disney+ (the suggestion being that the majority of people not clamoring to see it opening weekend on the big screen were happy to settle for a viewing in their living rooms instead). Its performance could actually add an interesting wrinkle to the on-going lawsuit that Scarlett Johansson filed this summer, so be on the lookout for updates on that story.

Simu Liu as Shang-Chi in Shang-Chi And the Legend Of The Ten Rings

Unsurprisingly, no other studio dared try to put out their own new wide release to compete with Shang-Chi And the Legend Of The Ten Rings, and while that led to somewhat depressed box office numbers over all, the films from August are continuing to pull in money from theaters. At the front of the line is Nia DaCosta's Candyman, which only dropped 52 percent in its second weekend, and added another $10.6 million to its domestic haul.

You may remember that Candyman impressively overperfomed when it debuted, pulling in $22.4 million in its first Friday-to-Sunday, and it was able to still find a solid number of people to scare even while going up against a well-reviewed franchise juggernaut. The horror film has now made $39.1 million at the domestic box office, which means that it has surpassed the total made by Bernard Rose's original during its entire theatrical run in 1992 (though that doesn't account for inflation). With its $10.9 million take abroad, the release has eclipsed $50 million worldwide.

Two of the most impressive performers right now, however, are Jaume Collet-Serra's Jungle Cruise and Shawn Levy's Free Guy. Both movies have been around since the first half of August, and they are holding on tight to their respective spots in the Top 5. Neither release had crazy splashy debuts, as neither managed to make over $35 million in their first three days, but they've continued to bring in money while other new releases have floated down to the bottom of the chart.

When it comes to the conversation surrounding hybrid releases, Jungle Cruise has been a bit of an anomaly, as it remains available via Premier Access on Disney+, but it has continued to bring audiences to the big screen. Not only has it made $105.6 million in North America, but it has also earned $86.9 million from overseas ticket sales, bringing its global total to $192.5 million. That puts it on the worldwide Top 10 for 2021.

Free Guy, meanwhile, is doing even better. Like Shang-Chi, the video game-inspired Ryan Reynolds comedy is only available to watch on the big screen, and the buzz surrounding it has continued to draw in audiences. The $8.7 million it has brought in since Friday brings its domestic total up to $91.9 million, and when combined with the $147.4 it has made abroad the film's global box office total balloons to $192.5 million.

Looking ahead, will Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings be able to hold on to its box office crown when James Wan's Malignant arrives this Friday, or will the enigmatic horror film become a massive early fall surprise? Be sure to head back here to CinemaBlend next Sunday to see how the showdown shakes out.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.