Sep 26, 2021 - Economy

"Shang-Chi" surpasses "Black Widow" as biggest domestic movie this year


Disney's latest Marvel blockbuster, "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" has officially beaten Disney's other Marvel hit "Black Widow" in North American ticket sales, according to the latest figures from Comscore.

Why it matters: The success of both films points to the extraordinary power of the Marvel franchise in luring people to the box office, even as the pandemic drags on.

Data: The Numbers; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: The Numbers; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Be smart: The film has so far brought in nearly $187 million in North American theater ticket sales, and nearly $331 million worldwide.

  • For now, it lags behind "Black Widow" just slightly on the global stage, but it could surpass the movie in total box office sales globally in coming weeks.

Flashback: "Shang-Chi" obliterated Labor Day weekend box office records, bringing in $94 million for the full four-day weekend, per Comscore. That early momentum has continued, despite COVID-19 cases surging in some parts of the U.S.

Be smart: The film's global box office success is especially noteworthy, given that the movie has still not been approved by China's government to run in the country's theaters. It's looking increasingly likely that the film may never get a release date in China, despite Disney's best efforts.

  • "Even without a China release date, the film is an unqualified box office hit and will undoubtedly be a huge hit on the small screen of when it makes its debut there," said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

The big picture: In recent years, box office ticket sales have skewed more heavily toward action and adventure movies from popular franchises like Marvel, Star Wars and the Avengers, while the share of ticket sales for dramas and comedies has fallen.

  • Action movies lend themselves to higher-end film experiences on big screens, compared to more passive, low-budget films like dramas.
  • While theater ticket sales have experienced strong momentum in the past few months, analysts don't expect the box office to recover meaningfully until 2022.

What to watch: It's been a good year for Disney at the box office, thanks in large part to the success of its Marvel movies. But the company, which has over a dozen additional Marvel films slated for the next few years, could be facing some trouble.

  • Marvel sued Disney on Friday for copyright termination protections of Marvel's Avengers characters, per the Hollywood Reporter.

What's next: Disney announced last week that "Shang-Chi" will be made available on its streaming service Disney+ at no additional cost to subscribers on Nov. 12.

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