It was a close-run thing, but Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has proved that blockbusters can defy pandemic expectations. The all-action Marvel fest, starring Simu Liu as the titular martial arts master, seized a strong $71.4 million gross at the domestic box office during its first three days of release.
It's all the more impressive given that Shang-Chi has been released during the American Labor Day weekend, typically an untested period for Marvel movies. Combine that with general anxiety over the pandemic, and theatres will surely be sighing with relief. Variety reports that at the end of the Labor Day weekend, which runs for four days in total, the movie should gross upwards of $80 million domestically.
When considering the film's international opening tally, Shang-Chi's total box office currently stands at $127.6 million. It's a strong start relative to the film's $150 million budget, although whether the movie will have 'legs', so to speak (as in, sustain its success over the coming weeks) remains to be seen.
The movie's opening lags just behind that of Marvel's very own Black Widow, which debuted to $80.3 million back in July, but it has overtaken franchise rival Fast and Furious 9 ($70 million opening). Shang-Chi has, in fact, set a new Labor Day box office record, besting the previous champ, 2007's Halloween reboot (which opened to $30.6 million).
Given that Shang-Chi was projected to open to a figure somewhere between $45 and $50 million, according to Box Office Mojo, this will be seen as a roaring triumph, not least because the movie is not being released on Disney+ at the same time. There had been anxiety that an absence of a streaming release would negatively cut into the film's results; fortunately, some sort of pre-pandemic normality has been restored.
The movie's success is a win-win in terms of representation. Shang-Chi is the first Marvel movie to showcase a lead actor of Asian descent, and, like Black Panther (2018) before it, looks to make amends for a largely colour-blind franchise. Shang-Chi's emphasis on Asian heritage and close-quarters, balletic martial arts fighting has led to an enthusiastic response with many speculating how the various story strands will continue to be threaded into the MCU. The presence of stalwart, revered actors including Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh has also helped lend the film credibility and authority.
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