Simu Liu in Shang-Chi bus fight

When Cate Shortland's Black Widow arrived this past summer, it stirred up more than a little in-industry controversy. Fearing the bottom-line impact from the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, Disney made the call to release the Marvel Studios blockbuster simultaneously in cinemas and via Premier Access on Disney+, and while some records were broken in the film's first three days of release, Hollywood was shocked when ticket sales dropped nearly 70 percent during the feature's second weekend. In addition to adding extreme fuel to the theaters vs. streaming war and inspiring Scarlett Johansson to file a lawsuit, this situation has resulted in a lot of analysts' eyes being fixed on Destin Daniel Cretton's Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings – which has come out as a big screen exclusive. Now the box office numbers for the MCU movie are in, and it's hard not to look at them as a huge win for the theatrical experience.

Check out the full Top 10 below, with Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings once again leading the pack, and join me below for analysis!

Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings CinemaBlend Box Office Banner September 10-12, 2021
1. Shang-Chi & The Legend Of The Ten Rings $35,786,000 Total: $145,601,141
LW: 1
THTRS: 4,300
2. Free Guy $5,819,000 Total: $101,839,050
LW: 3
THTRS: 3,650
3. Malignant* $5,570,000 Total: $5,570,000
LW: N
THTRS: 3,485
4. Candyman $4,930,000 Total: $48,132,280
LW: 2
THTRS: 3,279
5. Jungle Cruise $2,445,000 Total: $109,888,347
LW: 4
THTRS: 2,800
6. PAW Patrol: The Movie $2,215,000 Total: $34,619,447
LW: 5
THTRS: 2,820
7. Don’t Breathe 2 $1,150,000 Total: $30,243,364
LW: 6
THTRS: 1,708
8. The Card Counter* $1,100,000 Total: $1,100,000
LW: N
THTRS: 580
9. Show Me The Father* $700,000 Total: $700,000
LW: N
THTRS: 1,073
10. Black Widow $282,000 Total: $183,099,287
LW: 9
THTRS: 525

So why is this a huge win? The answer rests in comparing the earnings above to the total made by Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings during its record breaking opening, which saw it earn $71.4 million in the first three days of the Labor Day holiday weekend. The $35.8 million that the Marvel Studios film has brought in since Friday means that its percentage dip was only 53 percent, which is a major deal when you consider the performances of many of the other massive movies released in the last three months,

To be more specific, Black Widow wasn't the only blockbuster that saw a dip of around 70 percent from its first weekend to its second. James Gunn's The Suicide Squad, Malcolm D. Lee's Space Jam: A New Legacy, Robert Schwentke's Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, and Justin Lin's F9 all experienced similar falls going back to the start of July. The suggestion from the numbers has been that those most excited to see these titles on the big screen bought tickets to see them as quickly as they could, but the majority of other potential movie-goers have been willing to settle for either streaming or home video in subsequent weeks. In the case of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, however, there is clearly both a high level of excitement surrounding the film, and with the feature not being available to watch at home yet people are acting on their interest by buying a ticket and going to their local cinema.

To date, Shang-Chi has made $145.6 million, and it is quickly rocketing up the domestic Top Films Of 2021 chart. Black Widow remains the highest earner of the year, having made $183.1 million thus far on the big screen, but the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe title is well on its way to toppling it. Right now the Simu Liu-led feature has made $145.6 million, which puts it in fourth place for the year behind John Krasinski's A Quiet Place Part II, which made $160.1 during its run. It's also now broken into the Top 10 worldwide, and is now ranked in eighth place for the year with a gross of $257.6 million.

Of course, one has to look at all of this success in relative terms. The industry is still being deeply impacted by the pandemic, and that's reflected when you compare the performance of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings with what we have seen from other Marvel Studios films prior to COVID-19. Case in point, the movie has still not made enough money to crawl out of the basement when it comes to the all-time worldwide earnings of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; it still sits about $8 million behind Louis Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk, which made $265.6 million in 2008 before it was done playing on the big screen internationally. Much like how inflation has always tinged the practice of comparing box office numbers, we will now forever recognize the role played by the Delta variant in 2021 blockbusters.

Simu Liu and Awkwafina in Shang-Chi

One thing that certainly worked to benefit the performance of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings was the fact that it didn't have much competition to face off against. As you can see in the chart, there was only one new wide release in theaters this weekend – James Wan's Malignant – and it didn't quite make a huge splash in its big screen debut, earning $5.6 million and nabbing third place in the Top 10.

Like all of the other titles released by Warner Bros. this year, Malignant premiered this past weekend simultaneously in theaters and streaming on HBO Max, and it's easy to believe that had a key impact on the movie's performance – but that surely wasn't the only influencing factor. The marketing for the movie was also very limited in an aim to protect all of the big twists and surprises (which have inspired wonderful social media chatter all weekend). Because of this, awareness of it may have not have been at maximum levels. That being said, it's a film that has "future cult following" written all over it. It's unlikely that its growing core audience will be reflected in future weeks at the box office, as the convenience of watching it at home may prove too alluring for most, but that's too bad because it makes for a fantastic theatrical experience.

As for other new releases, Paul Schrader's The Card Counter also did some interesting business this weekend – albeit while still opening in eighth place in North America. Focus Features gave the Oscar Isaac movie a limited release in just 580 locations on Friday, and while it only made $1.1 million, that calculates to an impressive per theater average. It couldn't touch Number One in that regard (Shang-Chi put up an average of $8,322 in the last three days), but the film was number two in that regard with $1,897.

Looking ahead to next weekend, Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings may be looking at the possibility of moving to second place, but that will all depend on the draw of Clint Eastwood's Cry Macho, which is another Warner Bros. title that will be both in theaters and on HBO Max starting this Friday. We'll discover how everything plays out when the numbers come in next Sunday, and you'll find my latest box office column here on CinemaBlend when they do.

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