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Shang-Chi Becomes Highest Grossing Movie Of The Pandemic Era, Which 2021 Films Can Top It?

This weekend marked the fourth time that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings lead the domestic box office, as it took in another $13.3M. More importantly than weekend rank, on Friday it became the highest grossing movie of the “Pandemic Era”, topping Black Widow‘s $183.5M. Through Sunday, Shang-Chi has grossed $196.5M. Yes, Black Widow was burdened with a Disney+ release day and date, where “early access” was available for $30. However, Shang-Chi is performing at a level that suggests it would have topped it either way (I believe Black Widow would have made $215-$225M if it had been given an exclusive window).

Even more impressive is that in the next few days it will become the first movie to make $200M since Bad Boys For Life accomplished the feat back in early 2020. That film ended with $206M, and Shang-Chi will most certainly top that next weekend, making it the top film of both 2020 and 2021.

That being said, the film will have much more competition shortly, as only Venom: Let There Be Carnage, a sequel to a very successful film, opens next weekend. 2018’s Venom, starring Tom Hardy, grossed an expectation shattering $213.5M three October’s ago, and at the time also set the opening weekend record for the month with $80.3M. That record was topped the next year by current record holder Joker, which opened with a jaw dropping $96.2M. Even in normal times, this sequel probably would have made less than the first film, thanks to more competition this October and Venom having divisive word of mouth (30% from critics but 81% from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes). Still, Venom 2 is a heavy hitter, and introduces another beloved character to the screen in Carnage, played by Woody Harrelson.

That’s not the only competition next weekend either, as both The Addams Family 2 and The Many Saints of Newark open. 2019’s Addams Family opened to a rather robust $30.3M and legged out to $100.7M on a small $24M budget. Families haven’t had much for new movies since Paw Patrol opened in August, and the well known spooky Family should benefit as a result.

Meanwhile, Many Saints is a prequel film to the hugely beloved show The Sopranos, a show that lasted six seasons on HBO and earned much acclaim alongside consistent awards season love. However, the downside for this project is the simultaneous HBO Max release (once again intruding on a film’s expectations), especially for a franchise already associated with the HBO brand. That should keep grosses muted for the mob movie.

After that, a myriad of big releases come stomping into town, finally opening the door for a healthy market where every weekend features a new #1 contender. The long delayed and hotly anticipated Bond flick No Time To Die, which features Daniel Craig’s final turn as the character, opens on October 8th. The following weekend (October 15th), we get the Jamie Lee Curtis led Halloween Kills and The Last Duel, directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, The Martian) and starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, and Ben Affleck. Two more big releases open October 22nd: Ron’s Gone Wrong (which feels like the direct result of someone seeing Big Hero 6 several times), and Dune, which stars *many* big names, but Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, and Jason Momoa to name a few.

So expect to see the box office of Shang-Chi pushed to the sidelines after this week, but make no mistake, with fantastic word of mouth (92% from critics and 98% from verified audiences on RT), it will continue to make some decent change for the next several weeks. I expect it to make between $220M and $230M before it closes, which sets a high bar for the rest of 2021’s releases.

So are there any movies that can top it? I think there are a couple contenders for the domestic crown, most notably December’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, which I believe could fly by these numbers depending on word of mouth. The holiday season is already a great time for movies, as families seek out films to watch together (see Avatar’s original release total of $750M, which was the all time domestic record until current record holder The Force Awakens made an absurd $936.7M domestic).

Spidey is also one of the most popular superheroes ever. Add to that the trailer views being the highest ever in 24 hours, much hype about characters from past incarnations of Spidey appearing, and the first post-Avengers: Endgame appearance of Doctor Strange, and we’ll, No Way Home is on track to be an absolute juggernaut.

Another movie with “no” in the title that *has a chance* to top Shang-Chi is No Time To Die. Daniel Craig has been Bond since 2006 and if it’s a great film a la Skyfall or Casino Royale it’s going to have great legs. Folks who aren’t necessarily regular Bond film goers will be curious to check out what Craig’s last outing looks like, and for many Craig is the Bond they grew up with.

The only other reasonable contender in my mind is Eternals. Chloe Zhao just won Best Director at the Academy Awards earlier this year for her wonderful work on Nomadland, and with her assembling a marvelous cast (I make no apologies), there’s plenty of recognizable talent for MCU diehards and casual fans alike to be excited about. Shang-Chi obviously once again proves you don’t need to be a major marquee character to break out, and if the film is as great as rumored (many have gone on about how the folks at Marvel believe this is among their very best movies), then sky’s the limit.

As for Shang-Chi, it’s a wildly successful film that came at just the right time, as it convinced Disney and other studios to keep the release dates of many films (with Venom 2 even moving UP two weeks and Clifford The Big Red Dog being put BACK on the schedule). Not only that, but these movies will also maintain theatrical exclusivity, except for the Warner Bros flicks.

I sincerely believe WB regrets their decision to make all their 2021 movies go to HBO Max simultaneously. Not only did they piss off a lot of their directors, but they lost Nolan’s next project as well. He’ll be taking his talents to South Beach, err…Universal, after making his last nine films with WB. I’m addition, the WB films this year have *mostly* had very muted grosses, with legs being nearly completely kneecapped.

Dune and The Matrix Resurrections would greatly benefit from being exclusives, but hopefully they can still make some decent money similar to Godzilla Vs. Kong and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and avoid the anemic performances of, well…In The Heights, The Suicide Squad, Reminiscence, Cry Macho, The Little Things, and Malignant, most of which were good to great and still bombed.

Anyway, thanks Shang-Chi!

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