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Box Office Milestone: ‘Shang-Chi’ Becomes Highest-Grossing Domestic Pic of Pandemic Era

The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter
 23 days ago
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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings continues to dazzle at the box office .

The Marvel Studios and Disney pic achieved a major milestone on Friday when hitting $186.8 million in domestic ticket sales, the highest gross of the pandemic-era despite the challenges posed by the delta variant. The record previously belonged to fellow Marvel title Black Widow , which topped out at $183.4 million in North America.

Bullish box office analysts believe Shang-Chi has a shot at approaching $240 million or more by the end of its run domestically. Disney opted to give the film an exclusive theatrical release versus opening it day and date on the big screen and Disney+ at a premium price, as it did with Black Widow and several other pandemic-era releases.

Shang-Chi smashed the record for Labor Day openings with a four-day haul of $94.7 million. For the three days, it earned $75.4 million, a huge number for September and the second-biggest start of 2021 behind Black Widow ($80.3 million).

From filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton , Shang-Chi stars Simu Liu as Marvel’s newest hero and is the studio’s first to center on an Asian lead. The superhero offering has been fueled by positive reviews, strong exits from audiences and an A CinemaScore. Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Tony Leung, Fala Chen and Michelle Yeoh also star.

Shang-Chi is having no trouble beating new entry Dear Evan Hansen to stay atop the domestic box office chart for the fourth consecutive weekend, with an estimated take of $12.5 million to $13 million after earning $3.6 million on Friday, according to early estimates.

Adapted from the smash Broadway musical of the same name, Dear Evan Hansen debuted to a muted $3.2 million on Friday (including $800,000 in Thursday previews) for a projected domestic opening of $7.3 million.

It remains to be seen whether the Universal film can overcome generally poor reviews (its current ranking on Rotten Tomatoes is 33 percent). Audiences liked the coming-of-age story far more, giving it an A- CinemaScore.

Dear Evan Hansen was filmed in the latter half of summer 2020 during the pandemic and under the direction of Stephen Chbosky ( The Perks of Being a Wallflower ), with Ben Platt reprising his Tony Award-winning lead role as a lonely, disconnected high-school student. Hopes were high, considering that the Tony award-winning stage play was a cultural phenomenon.

Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Colton Ryan, Julianne Moore and Amy Adams also star in the musical, reportedly costing a modest $28 million to produce before marketing.

Musicals are tricky business at the box office. When they strike a chord, a Hollywood studio can strike gold (look no further than Universal’s Mamma Mia! or 20th Century Fox’s The Greatest Showman ). When they sing off-key, there is plenty of disappointment to go around ( Cats , In the Heights ).

Filmmaker Jon M. Chu’s In the Heights , from Warner Bros. and adapted from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stage musical, also opened during the pandemic. It fared somewhat better in its opening, grossing $11.5 million, on its way to earning a mediocre $29.8 million domestically. (One difference: In the Heights debuted simultaneously on HBOMax.)

In an unusual twist, Dear Evan Hansen did particularly well in Salt Lake City on Friday, with five of the top 10 grossing theaters coming from that city and its surrounding suburbs.

Rounding out the top five for the weekend are the sleeper hit Free Guy , Candyman and Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho.

Full weekend numbers will be released on Sunday.

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