There were questions among fans whether Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings would receive the same release strategy as Black Widow on Disney+ for the longest time. However, at Disney's Q3 Investor Call, it was reaffirmed that Shang-Chi would be receiving an exclusive 45-day window in theaters.
During this call, the film was unfortunately categorized as an "interesting experiment" by Bob Chapek in an impromptu response to an investor, which sparked a response from star Simu Liu. As for the film's box office potential with this release strategy, Boxoffice Pro had projected in August to have a domestic weekend opening between $35 million and $55 million.
If this ended up being the case, it would be the lowest opening weekend in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise; a new projection from Deadline doesn't seem to change this potential outcome.
PROJECTIONS FOR SHANG-CHI BOX OFFICE
Deadline reported that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently on track to earn more than $90 million in its worldwide box office opening weekend.
More specifically, it is tracking to earn over $40 million internationally and between $45 million and $50 million domestically during this Labor Day weekend in over 4,200 theaters. That would mean breaking the previous record holder, 2007’s Halloween, which made $30.6 million.
On the other hand, the lowest domestic opening weekend for an MCU movie came in Summer 2008 with The Incredible Hulk's $55.4 million debut. If current projections hold true, Shang-Chi would find its place as the unwanted new record-holder for Marvel Studios box office.
WILL SHANG-CHI SUCCEED AT THE BOX OFFICE?
The budget for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings still isn't publically available, but it can be assumed that it's in the same range as Black Widow, which was budgeted at $200 million. However, that film had multiple false opening dates and a prolonged marketing campaign that likely contributed to a slightly higher budget.
Excluding big team-up films like Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Endgame, the budget for films during Phase 3 - beginning with Civil War and ending with Spider-Man: Far From Home - averaged at a little over $170 million. So at the moment, it can be assumed that the budget for Shang-Chi is near that range.
Black Widow opened domestically at $80 million in theaters, so Shang-Chi is already around $30 million behind it if this project holds true. However, it doesn't have the added benefit of Disney+ premium purchases that inflated the big opening for Black Widow on top of that $80 million opening.
This could mean that Shang-Chi may have lower weekend drops over the next six weeks, along with the fact that it will have September practically all to itself.
As it stands, Black Widow has made over $180 million domestically and nearly $190 million internationally for a total of over $370 million in theaters. This does not include purchases made through Disney's streaming service which, at minimum, accounts for over $125 million. Disney has not been consistent in revealing the full amount of what it earned on its streaming service to this day.
It can then be assumed that Black Widow has made at least over $495 million through both its theatrical release and Disney+, putting itself in a position to break even at the box office. Will Shang-Chi be able to do the same? Black Widow has the advantage of starring both a known actress and character, while also being the first major release from Marvel Studios since the pandemic hit.
Some might point to one advantage for Shang-Chi being a release in China, but there has still been no word on that front even after Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige had an interview with a popular Chinese outlet. The only possible advantage that Shang-Chi might have is better word of mouth compared to Black Widow.
It ultimately depends on fans and walk-ins when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings releases this week in theaters on September 3, 2021.