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‘Shang-Chi’ triumphs again in second weekend, ‘Malignant’ misfires

Canadian actor Simu Liu arrives for the world premiere of Marvel’s ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ at the El Capitan theatre. ― AFP pic

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LOS ANGELES, Sept 13 — Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ruled the domestic box office again, collecting US$35.8 million (RM148 million) in its second weekend in theaters.

Ticket sales for the superhero movie, led by Simu Liu and Awkwafina, fell 53 per cent from its debut, a decline on par with many Marvel installments in pre-pandemic times. Notably, Shang-Chi is holding up better than Black Widow, the comic book adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson, which plummeted nearly 70 per cent in its sophomore outing. Black Widow opened simultaneously on Disney Plus (for an extra US$30), while Shang-Chi is playing only in cinemas.

Box office receipts for Shang-Chi appear to be encouraging to Disney, with the studio announcing last week that the rest of its 2021 slate — including Marvel’s Eternals and Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story — will all screen exclusively in theaters. The news is especially promising to theater operators, because Disney films are routinely among the highest-grossing of the year and most multiplexes in the US and Canada have been struggling to sell tickets to movies that are also available at home on streaming platforms.

The weekend’s only new nationwide release, the Warner Bros. horror film Malignant, was no match for Shang-Chi, with the twisted thriller debuting to US$5.57 million from 3,485 locations. That’s a tepid result since horror has been a reliable big-screen during the pandemic, and the film’s director James Wan, the co-creator of The Conjuring Universe and the Saw franchise, has a solid track record when it comes to cinematic scares. But a bonkers twist ending, as well as decent reviews for the genre (75 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes), weren’t enough to entice audiences to watch a movie that, like each of the studio’s 2021 releases, is available on HBO Max at the same time. It landed a “C” grade on CinemaScore, which doesn’t bode well for its future prospects.

Overseas, Malignant made US$6.3 million from 69 international markets for an international total of US$9.5 million and a global tally of US$15.1 million.

“This is a weak opening for a genre that’s held up well during the pandemic,” says David. A Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “With the film available on HBO, this start is below average.”

To put “Malignant’s” muted opening weekend ticket sales into perspective, it generated nearly the same amount as Free Guy, Disney’s sci-fi action comedy with Ryan Reynolds, did in its fifth weekend of release. In second place, Free Guy pocketed US$5.8 million from 3,650 venues, boosting its domestic tally to US$101.5 million, an impressive sum for an original property.

Universal’s slasher film Candyman nabbed the No. 4 spot with US$4.8 million from 3,279 locations. After three weeks of release, the movie had amassed US$48 million in the U.S. and Canada and an additional US$10.9 million internationally.

Disney’s family adventure Jungle Cruise rounded out the top five, pulling in US$2.4 million in its seventh frame. — Reuters

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