Shang-Chi dominates box office, validates Scar Jo’s beef with Disney

(Awkwafina, Simu Liu)

This weekend’s box office results completely validated Scarlett Johansson’s Disney lawsuit AND justified Disney’s decision to provide theater exclusive engagements for their remaining 2021 theatrical releases. Led by a very impressive second weekend at #1 for Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as well as strongholds for Free Guy and Jungle Cruise starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, the studio commanded nearly 80 percent of domestic ticket sales with Shang-Chi providing the bulk, taking in almost $36 million in its second weekend.

That’s down only a “standard” 53 percent from its opening.

In its opening weekend, Shang-Chi shattered the Labor Day holiday record, raking in $94.6 million. As opposed to other Disney releases such as Black Widow, Jungle Cruise and Cruella, each of which debuted simultaneously on the Disney+ streaming service for an additional $29.99, Shang-Chi was given an exclusive theatrical window of 45 days. The studio will follow a similar strategy for the next Marvel film, Eternals, which is due out in November.

Shang-Chi became the 102nd film to gross over $100 million in its first five days. More importantly, it was the first film to do it during the pandemic. (Black Widow took six days.) 

Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit in July, alleging that Disney breached Marvel’s agreement with Johansson that guaranteed Black Widow a theatrical-only release, as the majority of the actress’ salary on the superhero film was tied to box office gross. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, a source estimated that Johansson lost $50 million due to the Disney+ stream. The company previously revealed that Disney+ Premier Access purchases of Black Widow grossed $60 million during the film’s opening weekend. (Black Widow also made $80 million domestically and $78 million internationally at the theatrical box office during its opening weekend.)

The Shang-Chi “experiment” proved that even during these difficult times as we weather a global pandemic, cinephiles are still willing to brave Covid-19 and buy up movie tickets, thus validating Johansson’s grievances against Disney.

Directed by Shawn Levy and starring Ryan Reynolds, Free Guy, the video game-inspired movie became the seventh film of the year to pass the $100 million mark this weekend, moving back up to second place with another $5.8 million in it’s 5th week while allowing Malignant to take its place at #3 in its opening weekend. As we’ve seen with other HBO Max movies that hit theaters and the streaming service simultaneously, whenever there’s a solid number at the box office, there’s also a solid draw on VOD. That just wasn’t the case with James Wan’s giallo-inspired horror film Malignant this week, which “died” at the weekend domestic box office with a $5.57M opening and a divided C CinemaScore from audiences, as well as 753K on VOD.

Malignant, which is R-rated, received relatively good reviews at 76% fresh, but seemed to divide moviegoers with its surprise ending. Annabelle Wallis plays Madison, who is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.

Nia DaCosta’s Candyman update fell 53% in week three to $4.93 million bringing its total to $48 million and is holding fast to the top 5 by only slipping down to #4. In Paw Patrol’s fourth week, it moved down one spot to 6th. Both Don’t Breathe 2 and Respect are in their 5th week, but managed to maintain top ten positions for another week.

Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter (Focus) with Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, and Tye Sheridan, is expected to open on Premium VOD after its third weekend after opening in theaters and taking the #8 spot. Show Me the Father (Sony), a faith-based documentary from Affirm Films, played in nearly twice as many theaters as Card Counter but grossed $400,000 less to rank #9.

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The Top Ten

1. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$35,786,000 (-53%) in 4,300 theaters (no change); PTA (per theater average): $8,322; Cumulative: $145,601,000

2. Free Guy (Disney) Week 5; Last weekend #3

$5,819,000 (-35%) in 3,650 theaters (-235); PTA: $1,594; Cumulative: $101,839,000

3. Malignant (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: C; Metacritic: 52; Est. budget: $40 million; also on HBO Max

$5,570,000 in 3,485 theaters; PTA: $1,598; Cumulative: $5,570,000

4. Candyman (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #2

$4,800,000 (-53%) in 3,279 theaters (-290); PTA: $1,464; Cumulative: $48,000,000

5. Jungle Cruise (Disney) Week 7; Last weekend #4; also on Premium VOD

$2,445,000 (-39%) in 2,800 theaters (-275); PTA: $873; Cumulative: $109,888,000

6. PAW Patrol (Paramount) Week 4; Last weekend #5; also on Paramount Plus

$2,215,000 (-45%) in 2,820 theaters (-184); PTA: $785; Cumulative: $34,619,000

7. Don’t Breathe 2 (Sony) Week 5; Last weekend #6; also on Premium VOD

$1,150,000 (-50%) in 1,708 theaters (-468); PTA: $; Cumulative: $30,243,000

8. The Card Counter (Focus) NEW – Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Venice, Telluride 2021

$1,100,000 in 580 theaters; PTA: $1,890; Cumulative: $1,100,000

9. Show Me the Father (Sony) NEW

$700,000 in 1,073 theaters; PTA: $652; Cumulative: $700,000

10. Respect (United Artists) Week 5; Last week #7; also on Premium VOD

(est.) $500,000 (-60%) in 944 (-1,163) theaters; PTA: $530; Cumulative: $(est.) 23,188,000

Next weekend will see the release of director Michael Showalter’s Oscar-friendly title The Eyes of Tammy Faye, starring Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield; Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho (which will also get a simultaneous HBO Max release); and director Joe Carnahan’s latest action film, Copshop.


Joia DaVida reports on the entertainment industry in both Chicago and Los Angeles.