Marvels Shang-Chi to Rule Box Office Again as Malignant Eyes Soft Start

After its heroic opening weekend in North America, Disney and Marvel’s superhero adventure “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” will have no trouble reclaiming the domestic box office crown.

The comic book adaptation, starring Simu Liu and Awkwafina, is eyeing a second weekend haul between $26 million and $34 million. That would mark a 55% to 65% decline from its opening, a standard drop for a Marvel movie in non-COVID times.

“Shang Chi” kicked off its theatrical run with $75.3 million in its first three days of release and finished the Labor Day holiday with a record-setting $94.6 million. Since then, the film has surpassed $100 million in domestic ticket sales, making it the fastest pandemic-era release to hit triple digits. Notably, “Shang-Chi” is playing only in theaters and isn’t available day-and-date on Disney Plus, unlike fellow Disney offerings “Black Widow” and “Jungle Cruise.”

Hollywood will be closely watching the second-weekend results of “Shang-Chi” to determine the retention for a well-received theatrical-only release. So far, it’s been a mixed bag with “Black Widow” collapsing by 70% in its sophomore outing (while on Disney Plus at the same time) and the Ryan Reynolds-led “Free Guy” declining by 34% in its second frame (only in theaters).

From rival studios, the Warner Bros. comic book adaptation “The Suicide Squad” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy” fell fast between their first and second weeks since the two titles were offered concurrently on HBO Max, as did Paramount’s “G.I. Joe” sequel “Snake Eyes,” despite playing exclusively on the big screen. Universal’s theatrical-only thriller “Candyman” fell roughly 50% in its second weekend, which is normal for the genre, while Paramount’s kids movie “PAW Patrol” slid 49% compared to its debut. For much of the summer, traditional studios have been closely analyzing this kind of data to determine the best way to maximize ticket sales for its big-budgeted movies.

This weekend’s only new nationwide release, the Warner Bros. horror pic “Malignant,” doesn’t have a shot at dethroning “Shang-Chi,” barring nothing short of a box office miracle. Directed by James Wan, the gruesome “Malignant” is projected to make $5 million to $9 million from 3,500 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Though it carries a small production budget and doesn’t need to reach blockbuster status to turn a profit, a single-digit debut would be a weak result considering horror is one of the few genres to attract audiences during the pandemic. Like the studio’s entire 2021 slate, “Malignant” is premiering simultaneously on HBO Max, a factor likely to curb ticket sales. The studio has kept reviews under wraps, which historically doesn’t bode well for a film’s commercial reception. The movie centers on a woman named Madison (Annabelle Wallis), who is paralyzed by visions of grisly murders. Her misery only intensifies upon the discovering that her nightmares are, in fact, reality.

Several movies will open in limited release, including Paul Schrader’s crime drama “The Card Counter,” from Focus Features; Amazon’s musical adaptation of “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”; the STX comedy “Queenpins,” with Kristen Bell; and a documentary about Truman Capote titled “The Capote Tapes.”

Overall, the domestic box office has been slow to recover from COVID-19, though it has made inroads over the summer. In the stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day, revenues in North America reached $1.74 billion. That’s down 60% from the same period of time in 2019, which brought in $4.34 billion in ticket sales.

Hollywood studios and theater operators have high hopes for several big movies to cap off 2021, including MGM’s James Bond sequel “No Time to Die,” Sony’s “Venom: Let There be Carnage” and Disney’s “West Side Story” remake.

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