For the pandemic, Disney/Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings posted a solid Thursday night preview gross –especially before a slow Labor Day box office frame– of $8.8M from showtimes that began at 6PM. 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; but 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 between $90M-$100M. A domestic record Labor Day weekend opening is in store, besting the $30.6M 4-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 hitting 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 to 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.

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Separately, in a Fandango 1,500 moviegoers poll earlier in the week, 90% are looking forward to the star-making performance of Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, 89% are excited to see the first MCU movie led by an Asian and Asian American cast, while 88% want 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 are going to 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 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, that Christopher Nolan movie making $11.6M over four-days.




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