In less than three weeks, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings comes exclusively to theaters, in what should be a joyous occasion under any other circumstances. After all, it marks the franchise’s milestone 25th installment and features a brand new hero headlining their first solo movie for the first time since Captain Marvel arrived back in March 2019, but the pandemic has other plans.
After the Black Widow mess that saw Scarlett Johansson sue Disney for breach of contract, there was no chance the Mouse House would risk making the same mistakes again and send Shang-Chi to streaming on such short notice. However, the Delta variant is still a major concern, and there’s a lot of MCU fans more than happy to wait 45 days for the martial arts fantasy blockbuster to come to streaming free of charge than risk a trip to the theater.
That uncertainty has been reflected in the current projections, which have Shang-Chi opening somewhere between $35-55 million during its first frame. Even at the highest end of those estimates, Destin Daniel Cretton’s movie could be set for the unwanted distinction of scoring the MCU’s lowest-ever debut.
The current holder is The Incredible Hulk, which bowed with $55 million back in the summer of 2008, and Edward Norton’s one-and-done effort as Bruce Banner has been viewed as the red-headed stepchild of the shared universe ever since. Without the cushion of China to rely on, if Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings winds up at the bottom of the pile we could realistically be talking about Marvel Studios’ first genuine box office bomb, so let’s hope reviews are strong enough to give it some legs.