Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is set to surpass Black Widow as the highest-grossing movie of 2021. As of writing this, Shang-Chi has earned $183.2M domestically, just around 200K short of Black Widow's $183.4M. With the legs the film is showing at theaters, it looks like Shang-Chi will easily surpass Black Widow by the end of its fourth weekend at the box office, which is projected to be in the $11-12M range. That's a drop-off of somewhere between 45-49%, which is respectable after so many weeks.
Shang-Chi will surpass Black Widow's earnings and add a nice second feather in Marvel Studios' cap for 2021. Indeed, all eyes have been on Marvel and its 2021 slate of movies. After the COVID-19 pandemic decimated the movie theater industry, analysts and fans alike have been trying to predict when and how the theatrical business will bounce back. Since the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the undisputed king of the box office before the pandemic, many hoped the same would prove true after theaters re-opened.
Black Widow was a muddled case, as the film took the cautious approach of releasing simultaneously in both theaters and on the Disney+ Premiere Access streaming service. Black Widow did well for itself, but it wasn't a true measure of Marvel rekindling the box office. That heavy load was passed to Shang-Chi, which arrived in theaters carrying the entire future of the 2021 movie slate on its back. If Shang-Chi had bombed at the box office, then every big film arriving afterward (Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Eternals) was potentially going to pull up stakes and move. Now that Shang-Chi has become the highest-earning movie at the domestic box office, fans can probably breathe easy that the rest of the big films they're looking forward to will arrive in theaters.
"I love the movies. I love going to the movies," Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said during an interview back in the summer. "I love making movies for people to see in a shared environment in a theater together. To us, that's what it's about. The hybrid release can also be good — you want customers to have a choice. In this case, the choice is in theaters for 45 days. Here's what I know: there's an opening weekend, and you can go see a movie."
Indeed, as Feige indicates in his statement, Disney's new strategy is still releasing these big films in theaters for those opening weekend box office hauls - then putting out the films 45 days later on Disney+, to help boost the streaming service. Best of both worlds.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is now in theaters. Black Widow is now streaming on Disney+.