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Disney’s ‘Shang-Chi’ breaks box office record for Labor Day weekend

Simu Liu strikes a fighting pose in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings"
Simu Liu in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
(Marvel Studios)

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” the first Marvel film featuring an Asian actor as the star, dominated the weekend box office with an all-time record for a film opening over Labor Day.

The Walt Disney Co. movie racked up an estimated $90 million in ticket sales in U.S. and Canadian theaters over the four-day weekend, according to estimates from Comscore Inc. The result exceeded an initial forecast of about $63 million by researcher Boxoffice Pro.

The film hit home with Asian filmgoers, who represented about 17% of theater attendees over the weekend, more than double their usual turnout for a Marvel film, according to demographic data supplied by Disney. It did particularly well in cities with large Asian populations, including San Francisco, Honolulu and Vancouver.

The Boys & Girls Club of San Gabriel Valley hosted a private screening of ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ over Labor Day weekend.

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“Shang-Chi” also had the second-highest three-day opening weekend of the pandemic, after “Black Widow.” All the films showing in all North American theaters took in a combined $134.6 million, the best Labor Day weekend since 2014, Comscore data showed.

The Labor Day holiday is traditionally a slow one for the film industry, as consumers are usually distracted by kids returning to school and the start of college football. The movie business is still coping with the pandemic, with swaths of theaters in Asia and Latin America closed.

Disney took a gamble releasing “Shang-Chi” only in theaters and on this weekend. It’s the second major movie this year Disney has debuted solely in cinemas, instead of making its movies simultaneously available on Disney+ for free or for a $30 fee.

How do you turn a cliché-ridden comic book character into a distinctly Asian American superhero? Tackle the tropes one by one.

The Marvel picture tells the story of Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu, who is “drawn into the mysterious Ten Rings organization,” according to a description from the studio. It has a 92% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of the more critically acclaimed comic book films.

“Candyman,” a thriller from Universal Pictures, took the No. 2 spot at the box office this weekend, in its second week out. It had $13.4 million in sales domestically. Another Disney film, “Free Guy,” which is also only in theaters, took in $11.2 million in its fourth week.


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