Film Discussion

US Box Office Report: 10/09/21 – 13/09/21

Shang-Chi stands strong, Malignant is terminal, The Card Counter beats the dealer, and Other Box Office News.

Well, we can seemingly put to bed that cliffhanger question from last week’s BOR straight away.  Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings is obviously still in first place, as it will be for at least next week if not longer since absolutely nothing of any value is opening in Wide release until the 1st of October.  But the big question mark heading into the sophomore frame was “will it collapse like almost every would-be blockbuster did in their second weekends?”  To which a second week drop of 52.5% shuts down that fear pretty firmly for now.  I know that doesn’t sound great compared to prior Marvel films covered in this series, and the fact that just under half of $75 mil comes out as $35 mil, but as repeatedly stressed in last week’s return we’re now operating in different parameters.  These are, in fact, extremely healthy numbers for the middle of an ever-evolving pandemic and an indicator that traditional theatrical releasing is still very much viable so long as the film’s good and its legs aren’t cut out from underneath it by releasing simultaneously on a home streaming service.

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On a completely unrelated note, James Wan’s divisive and bonkers giallo homage Malignant which, just like every other Warner Bros. film this year, released simultaneously in theatres and their HBO Max streaming service, bombed badly.  Just $5.5 million and losing out on second place to the fifth weekend of Free Guy.  This is particularly noteworthy because the pandemic has managed to not affect the performances of horror movies too much at studios who don’t have underwhelming streaming services to shill, so Malignant’s complete failure to get out of the starting gates is certainly an indicator of… something.  Of course, much like the vast majority of Warner Bros.’ slate this year, this is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario as to whether the fault lies more with the undercut of the simultaneous release model or the film being shit/not very mainstream friendly anyway.  But with Shang-Chi having held alright as a sole theatrical release whilst prior Marvel film Black Widow nosedived in its sophomore frame (67.8%) with the hybrid model, I’m just saying it’s not entirely a surprise that Christopher Nolan’s out here trying to court new sugar daddies like the spurned lover his ego probably thinks he is.

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Unlike last weekend, we have non-Wide releases to talk about, perhaps the surest sign that nature is sorta healing or that capitalism will attempt to paint over the hellscape outside the windowsill to make it look like nature is healing.  Biggest and flashiest of the lot is The Card Counter, latest from the expert in disaffected god-fearing Catholic fuccboi dramas Paul Schrader.  Although it boasts a big name cast including Oscar Isaac and Willem Dafoe, just came off of a pair of major film festival premieres, plus the rumblings of Awards Season buzz – oh god, we’re almost back in that hole again – its prospects heading into the weekend weren’t exactly a royal flush, as it were.  Schrader, after all, is a contentious filmmaker with a very specific niche whose films weren’t always money-makers in the pre-pandemic era, and adult dramas like Card Counter haven’t done great since cinemas were declared back.  But it’s quietly outperformed expectations by cracking both the Top 10 (8th) and the $1 mil mark from 580 theatres!  By contrast, Small Engine Repair, the theatrical adaptation of John Pollono’s decade-old chamber play, stalled out with just $73,000 from 205 screens.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This Full List is all-in despite holding just three 2s.

US Box Office Results: Friday 10th September 2021 – Sunday 12th September 2021

1] Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

$35,786,000 / $145,601,141

And right on schedule, Disney goes and announces that the rest of their 2021 releases will be playing in cinemas exclusively for at least 45 days before hitting Disney+ in any capacity (except for Encanto which will run for 30 days).  Sure, this is a much easier decision to commit to when you’ve got a slate as stacked with obvious potential hits as Disney does – the next Marvel film, the next Walt Disney Animation Studios film, Spielberg remaking one of the most acclaimed musicals of all-time, and a prequel to the surprisingly well-performing Kingsman series.  But it’s still a major vote of confidence in standard theatrical distribution from a studio that doesn’t really need to rely so much on it anymore.  As someone who still loves the cinema experience and can’t relate to the endless bitching about it from people in online film discussion forums, I welcome this.

2] Free Guy

$5,819,000 / $101,839,050

The sixth film to cross $100 mil domestic this year, in case you’re needing yet another reminder that we’re operating by different metrics nowadays.  What is at least remaining consistent with pre-pandemic times, however, is that four out of those top six spots are held by Disney-affiliated films at time of writing – the two outliers being F9 and A Quiet Place Part II – since, say it with me now, Disney can buy and sell you at a moment’s notice.

Yes, I can get away with still using that joke from eight years ago because in this instance it’s a cheap nostalgia pop to pre-plague times, fuck you.

3] Malignant

$5,570,000 / NEW

Hearing everyone talk about how wild this movie is made me read up the synopsis, as I am wont to do when it comes to buzzed about horror movies (and especially the jump-scare horrors James Wan favours so much), and… yeah, that’s pretty ridiculous!  Sounds like a fun trip to take some day when my anxiety is less actively crippling!

4] Candyman

$4,830,000 / $48,032,280

So, I was watching 24: Redemption for the first time in a good decade the other night and I had completely forgotten that Tony Todd played a minor villain in both that and the follow-on Day 7!  An African warlord stereotype who later invades Not Hillary Clinton’s White House!  Arguably beneath his talents, but I’m always happy to see Tony Todd pop up unexpectedly in things.  (I think that technically counts as a Candyman joke.)

5] Jungle Cruise

$2,445,653 / $109,888,347

Wrote last week’s BOR several days before it went live so I wasn’t able to mention this then – cos I held off til Monday night to watch with Kelechi – but AEW All Out was a sensational wrestling show all of you should check out immediately.  Yes, even if you’re not predisposed to pro wrestling, I think you should give it a shot.  Just a masterclass of athleticism and storytelling, especially that Young Bucks/Lucha Brothers tag-team match which made me feel like I needed fourteen cigarettes afterwards.  God, I love AEW.

6] PAW Patrol: The Movie

$2,215,000 / $34,619,447

Speaking of pets doing things you wouldn’t expect them to, Paul Regan took a look at *checks notes* Campaigns & Companions: The Complete Role-Playing Guide for Pets ahead of its release this week.  Did he find it paw-ful or meow-gnificent, and will somebody please fire me for those hack puns?

7] Don’t Breathe 2

$1,150,000 / $30,243,364

In other outside the Top 10 news, free solo documentary The Alpinist, no relation to the Oscar-winning Free Solo even though both are definitely being compared to each other for the rest of time, did just sorta ok with $221,855 from 173 screens.  Meanwhile, the After series, which a Google informs me are the theatrical adaptations of Fifty Shades-reminiscent serial-numbers-filed-off One Direction self-insert fan fiction, marched onto its third of four entries, After We Fell, despite complete and total public indifference.  $428,300 although Box Office Mojo and The Numbers are failing to give a theatre count at the moment, so I may have to eat my words if it turns out After made this from like 20 screens.  Unlikely, mind.

8] The Card Counter

$1,100,000 / NEW

I clowned on the man’s niche earlier, but I am actually pretty excited for this.  Schrader is definitely a guy who self-recycles a lot, but he can be one of the best at what he does, so long as the Schrader of First Reformed shows up rather than the Schrader of Dog Eat Dog anyhow.

9] Show Me the Father

$700,000 / NEW

If I’m reading this deliberately vague and pandering synopsis right, Show Me the Father is a religious documentary about shitty real fathers finding redemption in the ur text of shitty fathers, God.  Wel- *is immediately pelted with garbage and forced to vacate the stage*

10] Respect

$503,000 / $23,100,000

Amazing Grace is currently free to watch on Prime Video.  Just putting that out there.

Dropped out: The Suicide Squad, Black Widow, The Night House

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