Features and Columns · Movies · News

‘Shang-Chi’ Had One of the Best Second Weekends of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The superhero movie also had THE best second weekend numbers since ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ in 2019.
Shang Chi
Marvel Studios
By  · Published on September 13th, 2021

Welcome to our weekly box office report, which we do a little differently. Rather than focusing on the money, FSR senior editor Christopher Campbell is more interested in the estimated attendance — or number of tickets sold. Because the value of money changes over the years, but the value of actual moviegoers remains the same. This week, we look at the second-weekend box office numbers for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and the opening box office for Malignant and The Card Counter.

A movie’s second-weekend attendance is often more interesting than its first. The opening weekend box office is a picture of anticipation. The second-weekend box office tells us if the movie is living up to expectations. Word of mouth could be strong. There might be repeat business. This is the time when we see if the movie is a hit and could have staying power.

For Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, second-weekend box office numbers, including its $34.7 million gross, means very good things for the latest entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s about 3.8 million tickets sold, which is the best second-weekend attendance of the pandemic. And even further: since the second weekend of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker at the end of 2019.

The previous pandemic record holder was the last MCU installment, Black Widow. The irony here is that Black Widow‘s second-weekend drop was a franchise-worst at 67.8% (from having the best opening of the year) while Shang-Chi‘s second-weekend drop was only 54% (from last weekend’s 8.2 million tickets), which ranks seventh for the MCU out of twenty-five movies. Of course, Black Widow was also available on Disney+ for anyone newly curious, slow to go, or wanting a re-watch after its debut.

The Lowest Second-Weekend Attendance Drops of the MCU

1. Black Panther (2018) — 44.7%
2. Thor (2011) — 47.2%
3. Iron Man (2008) — 48.1%
4. Doctor Strange (2016) — 49.5%
5. The Avengers (2012) — 50.3%
6. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) — 51%
7. Thor: Ragnarok (2017) — 53.5%
8. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) — 54%
9. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) — 55.3%
10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) — 55.5%
(tie) Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – 55.5%

James Wan Malignant
Warner Bros.

Malignant Box Office Attendance Disappoints

In second place over the weekend, Free Guy continued its surprise success by maintaining its appeal and crossing the $100 million mark. That means James Wan’s Malignant debuted at third with an estimated* opening box office gross of $5.4 million. The attendance for the horror film was roughly 593,000. That’s the smallest crowd that Wan has drawn in his career. The director has mostly been tied to franchises lately, but his name is brand enough that this should have been a bigger hit.

James Wan Movies by Box Office Attendance

RankMovie TitleOpening Weekend AttendanceTotal Domestic Attendance
1Furious 7 (2015)17.5 million41.9 million
2Aquaman (2018)7.5 million36.8 million
3The Conjuring (2013)5.1 million16.9 million
5Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)4.95 million10.3 million
4The Conjuring 2 (2016)4.67 million11.8 million
6Saw (2004)2.9 million9 million
7Insidious (2010)1.7 million6.8 million
8Dead Silence (2007)1.1 million2.4 million
9Death Sentence (2007)0.615 million1.4 million
10Malignant (2021)0.593 million0.6 million

Indeed, last week, Box Office Pro predicted Malignant would do at least the equivalent of 710,000 tickets sold. What was the problem? Malignant‘s reviews are mostly on the positive side at Rotten Tomatoes (74%, the fourth-best of his directorial career) and mixed at Metacritic (51). Interestingly enough, the audience/user scores at both sites go the other way. For the most part, moviegoers were less than satisfied, as opening-night crowds polled by Cinemascore gave Malignant a C grade.

The biggest factor was likely that Malignant is also available to stream on HBO Max at no additional cost to subscribers. But so were Mortal Kombat and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, both of which involved Wan as a producer.  Those films debuted to ticket sales of around 2.5 million and 2.6 million, respectively. All of them franchise IPs, of course. Another recent Wan production, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, was theatrically exclusive and opened with only about 1 million tickets sold. Also a franchise IP.

The Card Counter Has the Best Per-Screen Average of New Releases

Two more new releases landed in the top ten for the weekend. Coming in eighth place, Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter debuted with the second-best limited-release opening of the year (Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain had the best). The film’s total attendance was only around 113,000, but The Card Counter had one of the best per-screen attendances of the year. The average there was 196, from 580 screens. It’s a good sign for moviegoing when the “specialty” film crowds are increasing.

The other film, landing in ninth place and performing much worse than expected, is Sony’s Show Me the Father, a documentary about fatherhood with a Christian faith-based perspective. Nearing the top ten in eleventh place was another new release: After We Fell, the third installment of the After franchise, based on the romance novels that began as One Direction fanfic. Its debut attendance of about 47,000 is nearly the same as the last entry, After We Collided, which also opened during the pandemic, one year ago.

Box Office Attendance for September 10 - September 12, 2021

RankMovie TitleWeekend AttendancePer-Screen AttendanceTotal Domestic AttendanceStudio
1Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings3.8 million88115.8 millionWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
2Free Guy0.61 million16611.1 millionUniversal Pictures
3Malignant0.59 million1700.6 million20th Century Studios
4Candyman0.52 million1595.2 millionParamount Pictures
5Jungle Cruise0.254 million9212 millionWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
6PAW Patrol: The Movie0.251 million893.8 millionScreen Gems
7Don't Breathe 20.13 million743.3 millionMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
8The Card Counter0.11 million1960.11 millionWarner Bros.
9Show Me the Father0.08 million710.08 millionWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
10Respect0.06 million432.5 millionSearchlight Pictures

*Initially box office grosses are estimated and then are later updated for actual figures.

** Ticket sales and attendance figures are determined with each year’s average ticket prices. Currently, for 2021, that average is $9.16.

All box office gross figures are sourced from Box Office Mojo, The Numbers, and Box Office Pro unless otherwise stated.

Related Topics:

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.