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Disney’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” ruled the domestic box office again while Clint Eastwood’s Western drama “Cry Macho” and Gerard Butler’s R-rated action-thriller “Copshop” crumbled in their debuts, highlighting the disparity between the kind of movies people are willing to venture out to see during the pandemic.
“Shang-Chi,” the first Marvel superhero adventure to feature an Asian star and predominately Asian cast, pulled in a mighty $21 million in its third weekend of release, marking a decline of just 39% from the previous weekend. The film has generated an impressive $176.9 million at the domestic box office to date.
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Ticket sales for “Shang-Chi” are particularly notable because the film, which opened earlier this month, brought in more money between Friday and Sunday than this weekend’s two new nationwide releases — “Cry Macho” and “Copshop” — combined. Those films failed to connect in theaters because they were targeting older moviegoers, a demographic that has been reticent to return to multiplexes with the delta variant of COVID-19 spreading. For “Cry Macho,” 89% of ticket buyers were over the age of 35.
“Cry Macho,” the latest cinematic effort from Eastwood, the 91-year-old director of “Gran Torino,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “American Sniper,” fell short of expectations and landed in third place with a dismal $4.5 million from 3,967 screens. The $33 million-budgeted “Cry Macho” is the latest Warner Bros. release, following “Malignant” and “Reminiscence,” to stumble at the box office while premiering simultaneously on HBO Max.
At the No. 6 spot, STX and Open Road’s “Copshop” fared even worse, bringing in an anemic $2.3 million from 3,005 locations. The two films were targeting a similar audience, which could have cannibalized sales from the few patrons who bought tickets.
Of “Cry Macho,” David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, says, “This is a weak opening in the face of two formidable obstacles: Older moviegoers are not yet ready to return to the movies in force, and the film is available at home.”
He adds, “But with soft reviews, even in normal times, the movie would be opening below average for a Clint Eastwood Western drama.”
While films aimed at adult audiences have been a tough sell, CGI-heavy adventures have been mainstays on movie theater marquees. Since it premiered only in theaters over the Labor Day holiday, “Shang-Chi” looks to become the first pandemic-era release to cross $200 million in North America. In a notable benchmark, “Shang-Chi” has surpassed Universal’s “F9: The Fast Saga” ($172 million) to stand as the second-highest grossing film of the year in the U.S. and Canada. In the next few days, “Shang-Chi” should dethrone its fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe installment “Black Widow” ($183 million) as the highest-grossing movie of 2021.
Unlike “Shang-Chi,” people didn’t have to visit their local multiplex to watch “Black Widow.” The comic book adaptation, starring Scarlett Johansson, was available to rent on Disney Plus on the same day as its theatrical debut. Disney has reported that “Black Widow” has made $125 million through Disney Plus Premier Access. Even with the extra cash from online viewership, Disney has maintained its commitment to the big screen, at least through the end of the year. The studio recently announced the rest of its 2021 film slate, including Marvel’s “Eternals” and Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” remake, will play exclusively in theaters.
“Disney’s recent decision to release its movies in theaters in advance of streaming is another indication that, after exploring different possibilities, releasing theatrically first remains the best approach,” Gross says.
Elsewhere at the domestic box office, Disney and 20th Century’s “Free Guy” continued to exceed expectations, bringing in $5.2 million from 3,288 theaters between Friday and Sunday. In its sixth weekend of release, “Free Guy” secured second place ahead of newcomers “Cry Macho” and “Copshop” and holdovers “Candyman” and “Malignant.” In a win for original fare, the Ryan Reynolds-led sci-fi comedy has grossed $108.6 million in North America and $298 million globally.
Universal’s horror movie “Candyman” landed in fourth place with $3.5 million from 2,820 locations. After a month in theaters, the R-rated slasher film, starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, has amassed $53 million in the U.S. and Canada. Warner Bros.’ unhinged thriller “Malignant” rounded out the top five with $2.6 million from 3,501 screens, bringing its 10-day domestic tally to a dismal $9.8 million.
In limited release, Searchlight’s “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” had a soft start, pocketing $675,000 from 450 locations. That bounty — amounting to $1,500 per venue — was enough to notch the No. 10 spot on box office charts. The movie, which dramatizes the rise and fall of controversial televangelists Tammy Faye Bakker (Jessica Chastain) and Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield), plans to expand its footprint to more than 1,000 theaters by next weekend. Michael Showalter (“The Big Sick”) directed “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” a drama that hopes to find itself in the awards race in the coming months.
Given that adult audiences have been more reluctant to go to the movies, it’s unsurprising the specialty box office remains challenged. Focus Features opened “Blue Bayou” in 477 theaters and brought in $315,000 in total, translating to a disappointing $660 from each location. Elsewhere, IFC opened “The Nowhere Inn,” a satirical mockumentary starring St. Vincent and Carrie Brownstein. The film grossed $20,000 from 46 theaters, averaging $435 per location.
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