Shang-Chi Box Office Prediction Expects Record-Breaking Receipts
The box office gross as a metric for a film’s success is a dubious one. At best, it’s an interesting data point that shows the immediate cultural impact of the film. It also obviously informs the decision-making process in the age of franchises. The box office prediction for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is both good and bad news. If the film equals the opening weekend box office for Black Widow, it will break the record for Labor Day Weekend, including pre-pandemic years. Currently, the top spots are held by 2007’s Halloween and 2020’s Tenet. Both made just north of $58 million worldwide. So, in theory, Shang-Chi could fall well below the box office prediction and still be the highest-grossing Labor Day movie of all time.
Much of the box office strategy in Hollywood is based on what amounts to legend. One such legend is that in the last weekend of summer, people don’t go to the movies. Thus, studios typically don’t drop movies that weekend. Instead, it’s the bastion calendar spot for weird movies like 2006’s The Wicker Man and 2010’s Machete. It’s also the weekend Warner Bros. chose to drop Tenet, the first post-lockdown trial balloon for movie theaters.
So, in order for Shang-Chi to be seen as a box office success, it really only has to top $60 million globally, half of that in the US and Canada. The budget for this movie is certainly in the $185-$225 million range (before marketing), and if things go well, it could even make its money back. Yet, the lingering issues surrounding the pandemic make this whole business tantamount to raw speculation.
The Shang-Chi Box Office Prediction Expects a Broken Record
Image via Marvel Studios
The box office prediction for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings expects the movie to meet or exceed Black Widow’s $80 million opening. In fact, they seem to expect it to go even higher than that since there isn’t a concurrent release on Disney+. The lawsuit from Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson likely put the kibosh on any future Disney Premier Access titles for now. Ironically, Black Widow is still the highest-grossing film for 2021 with $181.4 million to-date. If Shang-Chi has decent legs past the opening weekend, it could easily take the top spot from Black Widow. If people want to see this movie multiple times, the theater is the only place they can do that until it hits Disney+. The “interesting experiment” here is whether or not people will just wait the six weeks for it to hit the streaming service.
On the other hand, if people do turn out in droves for this movie, it could be a huge boost to movie theaters. For example, if this film hits over $100 million on its opening weekend, that’s still very low relatively speaking for any movie, let alone a Marvel Studios joint. But, it would be a staggering amount for the reality of the box office in 2021. The 45-day run could, in theory, double the total earned by Black Widow, and still not make back the budget and marketing costs. Similarly, if it drives up Disney+ subscriptions, the Mouse House will have a clear incentive to put their tentpoles in their own tent as quickly as possible.
Still, even if Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings falls short of its box office prediction, this is likely still an “added value” situation for the MCU.
Why Box Office May Not be the Only Metric for Success for Shang-Chi
Image via Marvel Studios
The folks at Marvel Studios have to expect that one day, eventually, one of their movies will “flop.” What that means, however, is not any one thing. Let’s say the absolute worst case scenario happens, and Shang-Chi only brings in $20 million globally. (And pre-sale numbers are already pushing $7 million.) Also, once the movie hits Disney+, it doesn’t do spectacular numbers. This film could still be a feather in Marvel Studios’ cap, at least to everyone but Disney investors. The positive review response and the fact that this film highlights an underrepresented social demographic is good for the studio. As years go on, the box office will be forgotten but kids who like martial arts, superheroes, and fantasy, will find and watch this movie. It is another gateway into the MCU. Though, it will probably push back Eternals and other big releases.
They also now have Shang-Chi as a character who could, at the very least, pop up in other Marvel Studios projects. The way they handled the character of Bruce Banner or Tony Stark after Iron Man 3, could be the model here. Some clutch appearances in more successful films in the future could create an audience for an eventual continuation of the Shang-Chi franchise. The future of entertainment was in a state of flux before the pandemic. So, a box office failure for Shang-Chi (with fair to middling performance on Disney+) could keep this franchise alive in a way that wasn’t possible a few years ago.
That Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has a strong box office prediction does put some pressure to perform on the film. Given the Labor Day history and the effort from AAPI groups to help folks see this movie, it should be able to meet them. If this were 2019 instead of 2021, I’d venture a guess that Marvel Studios had another billion-dollar movie on their hands. They still do, it’s just going to take a little longer for the check to clear.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings debuts in theaters September 3, 2021.
What do you think of the box-office prediction for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings? Do you think it will break the record,
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.