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‘Shang-Chi’ blasts Labor Day records in debut

NEW YORK — On what’s traditionally one of the sleepiest weekends at the movies, the Marvel film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” smashed the record for Labor Day openings with an estimated $71.4 million in ticket sales, giving a box office reeling from the recent coronavirus surge a huge lift heading into the fall season.

The Friday-to-Sunday gross for “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Marvel’s first film led by an Asian superhero, ranks as one of the best debuts of the pandemic, trailing only the previous Marvel film, “Black Widow” ($80.3 million in July). Overseas, it pulled in $56.2 million for a global three-day haul of $127.6 million. Disney anticipates “Shang Chi,” made for about $150 million, will add $12.1 million domestically on Monday.

The Walt Disney Co. opted to release “Shang-Chi” only in theaters where it will have an exclusive 45-day run. Some of the studio’s releases this year, including “Black Widow,” have premiered day-and-date in theaters and on Disney+ for $30.

The strong opening of “Shang-Chi” — forecasts had been closer to $50 million — was a major relief for Hollywood, which had seen jittery releases the last few weeks during rising COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant. Several upcoming films have recently postponed out of the fall, including Paramount Pictures’ “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Jackass Forever” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog.” Disney’s weekend, though, should lend confidence to upcoming big-budget releases such as the James Bond film “No Time to Die” from MGM and United Artists Releasing, and Sony Pictures’ “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.”

“Shang-Chi’ is the ultimate confidence-builder for the theatrical movie industry,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore. “This was a very important film. This was the first Marvel movie that’s opened exclusively theatrically since ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ in July 2019. ‘Shang-Chi’ is a real testament of the power of a theatrical-first strategy to drive huge numbers of moviegoers to the multiplex.”

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