'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' Crushes Box Office, and Day-to-Date Steaming Releases

© AP Photo / Jae C. HongA moviegoer eats popcorn at Mission Tiki drive-in theater in Montclair, Calif., Thursday, May 28, 2020.
A moviegoer eats popcorn at Mission Tiki drive-in theater in Montclair, Calif., Thursday, May 28, 2020. - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.09.2021
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“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” set box office records over the Labor Day weekend. The newest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the first major Disney release this summer to not have a day-to-date streaming release. Could its success be a death blow to the day-to-date blockbuster?
The coronavirus pandemic has had a crippling effect on the film industry. Productions were shut down. Release dates were pushed back. Movies once headed for theaters went straight to on-demand. The industry was in flux.
As a result, Hollywood decided to try something new. If people were scared to see movies in theaters, why not bring the films directly to them? The idea was not new, but the idea that a blockbuster could be available to watch, on your couch, the same day that it graced theaters was. The idea was bold, it was novel, and, if this summer is any indication, it is dead.
A worker cleans the screen of a cinema hall as part of preparations for a possible reopening after the government eased the lockdown restrictions previously imposed due to the Covid-19 coronavirus, in Chennai on October 8, 2020 - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.08.2021
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Over the four-day Labor Day weekend, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” opened to $90 million. It's three-day opening, how non-holiday box office weekends are reported, came in at $75.5 million.
The record for a four-day Labor Day weekend was $30.6 million. “Shang-Chi” more than doubled that in its first three days of release. It also was exclusively available in theaters, like the good old days.
“Shang-Chi” is a massive success. I's opening all but guarantees it’ll be one of the highest grossing films of the year, and it also may represent a death blow for day-to-date streaming releases. Using weekend box office projections from boxofficereport.com, an all too telling trend emerges. Movies that had day-to-date streaming releases underperformed and those that didn’t defied expectations.
From May 28th, 2021 to September 6th, 2021, nineteen high-profile releases went to American cinemas. Eight had day-to-date steaming releases and eleven did not. Of the eight available for streaming right away they were, on average, projected to gross $32.6 million in their opening weekend. In reality, these films grossed, on average, $30.7 million.
While a drop-off of $1.9 million doesn’t sound like much, the projections baked in that people were able to watch it without going to theaters. Factor in that films with day-to-date streaming releases also experienced more significant declines in subsequent weeks, and suddenly studios are seeing their box office returns dwindle.
Actress Scarlett Johansson attends the special screening of Jojo Rabbit during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival Day 4 at the Princess of Wales Theatre on September 8, 2019, in Toronto, Ontario - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.08.2021
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The other side of the coin are the eleven films that didn’t have day-to-date streaming releases. As a group they, on average, were projected to earn $27.4 million in their opening weekends but brought in an average of $30.6 million.
On the whole, the difference between the two groups is a small $100,000 difference on opening weekends. However, expectations are everything in the film industry, and the films without day-to-date releases were more likely to go above and beyond their pre-release expectations.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” had a record setting debut. It caps off a summer of disappointing box office returns with a ray of hope. While it has all but guaranteed a long running franchise, its longest lasting legacy may be that it was the film that officially killed the day-to-date streaming blockbuster.
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