Disney Owned 60 Percent of the Weekend Box Office as ‘Shang-Chi’ Broke a Record

"Dune" also opened well in overseas territories, bringing hope for a strong October. For adult-audience movies like Clint Eastwood's "Cry Macho," it's another story.
Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios' SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021.
"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings"
Marvel Studios

If you seek evidence that theaters are well on the way to recovery, look no further than Disney’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Free Guy.” They continue to thrive, while Warner Bros.’ “Dune” opened well in its initial foreign territories.

If you suspect that exhibition issues abound, this weekend saw three new adult-oriented releases, led by Clint Eastwood’s “Cry Macho,” all of which had weak or worse domestic debuts.

“Shang-Chi” was a dominant #1 in its third weekend and broke a record, however obscure: At just under $22 million, it is the best-ever gross for the third weekend in September. That record is a nice side effect of being a trailblazer: Before “Shang-Chi,” it was all but unheard of for a film with that much potential to open early in the month.

The Simu Liu actioner is also ahead of the third weekends for Marvel titles like “Spider-Man: Far from Home” and “Thor: Ragnorok,” although its current total of $177 million lags behind them at the same point.

“Dune” opened in 24 territories (starting either Wednesday or Thursday, in most) to an estimated $37 million, five weeks ahead of its domestic debut. Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic performed as well or better than most recent hits in these countries. The film benefited from release right after its Venice premiere; it also benefits from better playing conditions, with many places lifting Covid restrictions. In the U.S., “Dune” will open with day-and-date on HBO Max; these dates offer no home access.

Results for these films, particularly the Shang-Chi” hold give hope that a steadier supply of top new titles in October and beyond will improve overall results. Next month brings “No Time to Die” (United Artists) as well as “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (Sony), “Dune,” and “The Last Duel” (Disney).

Beyond the blockbusters, other stats are discouraging. With $48 million across all films, this weekend ranks as the lowest in three months, and reflects 40 percent of the same weekend in 2019. Our rolling four-week comparison to 2019 dipped to 66 percent.

CRY MACHO, from left: Clint Eastwood, Eduardo Minett, 2021. ph: Claire Folger /© Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Cry Macho”Everett Collection

“Cry Macho” is #3, but managed only $4.5 million. (Like all Warners movies this year, it premiered day-and-date on HBO Max.) Surveys show its audience was 62 percent age 45 and older, and 66 percent white. Those demographics don’t propel ticket sales.

Two just-premiered festival films, each from a top specialized distributor, failed to make much impact. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight), with Jessica Chastain in pursuit of a Best Actress nomination, mustered $675,000 in 450 theaters ($1,500 per screen). The film has a 45-day window and will expand to around 1,000 screens this weekend. Justin Chon’s “Blue Bayou” (Focus), about a Korean-American man facing deportation, earned $315,000 on 477.

Pre-Covid, both of these films would have been platform releases with fewer theaters and higher per-screen averages. Even then, they would have faced the headwind of mediocre reviews (both ranked under the already-generous definition of “good” by Metacritic). Not that reviews are a panacea; Paul Schrader’s acclaimed “The Card Counter” (Focus) fell 58 percent in its second weekend, the most of any film in the top 15.

The two best holds were both Disney titles: “Free Guy” (#2) dropped only 7 percent and “Jungle Cruise,” in its eighth week, fell 10 percent. All told, Disney-released titles made up 60 percent of the weekend. Also holding well was “Candyman” (Universal), off only 26 percent even as it began Premium VOD play this week.

Also opening was “Copshop” (Open Road) from “A-Team” director Joe Carnahan. With Gerard Butler as an imperiled hitman, it managed a small $2.3 million in 3,003 theaters.

The Top Ten

1. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$21,700,000 (-37%) in 4,070 theaters (-230); PTA (per theater average): $5,332; Cumulative: $176,894,000

2. Free Guy (Disney) Week 6; Last weekend #2

$5,200,000 (-7%) in 3,288 theaters (-377); PTA: $1,582; Cumulative: $108,576,000

3. Cry Macho (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B ; Metacritic: 59; Est. budget: $33 million; also on HBO Max

$4,515,000 in 3,967 theaters; PTA: $1,138; Cumulative: $4,515,000

4. Candyman (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #4; also on Premium VOD

$3,500,000 (-26%) in 2,820 theaters (-459); PTA: $1,241; Cumulative: $53,100,000

5. Malignant (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend #3; also on Premium VOD

$2,680,000 (-51%) in 3,501 theaters (+16); PTA: $765; Cumulative: $9,804,000

6. Copshop (Open Road) NEW – Cinemascore: ; Metacritic: 61

$2,301,000 in 3,005 theaters; PTA: $769; Cumulative: $2,301,000

7. Jungle Cruise (Disney) Week 8; Last weekend #5; also on Premium VOD

$2,089,000 (-10%) in 2,265 theaters (-500); PTA: $922; Cumulative: $112,583,000

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

$1,750,000 (-24%) in 2,269 theaters (-551); PTA: $621; Cumulative: $37,143,000

9. The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Searchlight) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 53; Festivals include: Toronto 2021

$675,000 in 450 theaters; PTA: $1,500; Cumulative: $675,000

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

$665,000 (-43%) in  1,003 theaters (-705); PTA: $633; Cumulative: $31,338,000

Additional specialized/limited/independent releases

Blue Bayou (Focus) NEW – Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Cannes 2021

$315,000 in 477 theaters; PTA: $660

Wife of a Spy (Kino Lorber) NEW – Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Venice 2020

$6,650 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,650

Ghost in the Shell (reissue) (Lionsgate)

$(est.) 225,000 in 124 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 1,815

The Nowhere Inn (IFC) NEW – Metacritic: 60; Festivals include: Sundance 2020; also on VOD

$20,000 in 46 theaters; PTA: $437

The Card Counter (Focus) Week 2

$440,000 in 584 theaters (+4); Cumulative: $1,900,000

Show Me the Father (Sony) Week 2

$365,000 in 1,073 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $1,374,000

The Alpinist (Roadside Attractions) Week 2

$136,940 in 245 theaters (+72); Cumulative: $557,546

The Lost Leonardo (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6  217

$32,041 in 139 theaters (-78); Cumulative: $381,678


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