Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Disney

Disney's new Marvel hit "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is expected to break records at the box office this weekend, giving the movie theater industry a glimmer of hope heading into the fall.

Why it matters: A few recent box office hits like "Candyman" and Disney's "Free Guy" prove that consumers are still willing to go to the theater despite the Delta variant. But overall, the box office is still pacing far behind 2019 totals and likely won't be able to recover meaningfully until 2022.

  • "'Shang-Chi' will be another good test," Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian tells Axios. "But 2022 is when we can start to assess what we've learned over the past many months and then perhaps make bold statements about the future of the industry."

Details: The Labor Day box office is typically one of the slowest each year, with many families looking to get out of town before school returns.

  • "Shang-Chi" is expected to do well because it has huge buzz, it doesn't have much competition this weekend, and because it's one of the first Marvel films since the start of the pandemic that Disney is making available exclusively in theaters. It will be available on Disney+ after a shortened, 45-day exclusive run on the big screen.
  • Dergarabedian expects "Shang-Chi" to bring in well over $60 million for its three-day North America debut and over $75 million over the full four-day weekend.
  • That would obliterate the previous Labor Day record-holder — MGM's horror film "Halloween" — which earned over $30 million over the long weekend in 2007.

Yes, but: Even if some consumers are comfortable returning to the theaters, the pandemic-driven shift to streaming means that movie studios will want to continue experimenting with hybrid releases.

  • "The amount of movies heading to streaming has increased substantially," says Lightshed Partners analyst Rich Greenfield. "Streaming services are important to these studios, so they recognize the importance of getting moves there sooner."
  • Some studios are making films available on streaming for free or for a premier access fee at the same day they debut in theaters. Others are making movies available on streaming after a shortened theatrical window.
  • Greenfield notes that HBO Max, which made the entire movie slate from Warner Bros. available to subscribers on the same day that the films debuted in theaters, was the only streaming service that outperformed this year domestically.
Expand chart
Data: Box Office Mojo; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: It's clear that the box office won't return to pre-pandemic levels any time soon.

  • Despite a few big hits, like Warner Bros. "Godzilla vs. Kong," Paramount's "A Quiet Place Part II, Universal's "F9: The Fast Saga" and Disney's "Black Widow," ticket sales are down 74% year-to-date compared to 2019.
  • While the vast majority of movie theaters in the U.S. are open, studios are still trying to figure out whether they should delay their biggest hits. Paramount said last week that it would push "Top Gun: Maverick" from November to May 2022 and would push "Mission: Impossible 7" from May to September 2022.

Be smart: One genre that has been able to reliably produce big numbers for studios that are wary of putting their most expensive action films out is horror. Horror films tend to be lower budget, so there's less profitability risk in keeping them in theaters.

The bottom line: "Like so many industries, I think full recovery is highly dependent on the state of the pandemic, comfort levels, and eventually the ability for kids under 12 to be vaccinated," says Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice Pro.

  • "When it comes to long-term recovery, the outlook is optimistic based on the demand we're already seeing in a market that's not fully vaccinated and while variants are still a concern. The X factor is timing."

What's next: Robbins notes that most demand to return to the theater is coming from the 15-40 age range, especially among men, which should bode well for action films like "Shang-Chi."

  • "That's a key factor for studios planning when and how to release films aimed at that demographic," he said.

Go deeper

Sep 9, 2021 - Podcasts

Brutal crackdowns as Afghanistan gets a new government

The Taliban yesterday announced the first members of a new temporary Afghan government. And as Axios’ national security reporter Zach Basu writes, the interim cabinet is made up of mostly “old-guard Taliban officials.”

  • Plus, disappointing jobs numbers with some glimmers of hope.
  • And, actor Simu Liu on turning a movie into a movement.

Guests: Axios' Zachary Basu, Kate Marino, and Hope King.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, and Michael Hanf. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congressman criminally charged with lying to feds

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) has been indicted on charges he falsified records and lied to federal investigators probing an illegal foreign donation scheme, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Driving the news: DOJ says a Fortenberry associate, who later cooperated with investigators, informed him he'd likely received illegal donations from an intermediary for a foreign national, but that Fortenberry denied any knowledge of such a scheme when contacted by the FBI.

"Assassin's Creed," but for schools

"Viking Age: Discovery Tour." Image via Ubisoft

For the third time since 2018, Ubisoft is releasing a nonviolent version of its latest “Assassin’s Creed” game as part of a unique effort to turn one of the medium’s most popular series into an educational tool.

Driving the news:Viking Age: Discovery Tour” transforms last year’s “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” from a bloody 150-hour game about Viking conquest in 9th century England into a peaceful four-hour game about merchants and monks.