Not to be outdone by the new Hollywood biggies, China’s $200 million, three-hour “China versus America” Korean War epic The Battle of Lake Changjin demolished the Chinese box office with a stunning $237 million opening frame (including $12.9 million in IMAX). That’s more than Venom: Let There Be Carnage ($90.1 million domestic and $13.8 million in Russia), No Time to Die ($119.1 million overseas) and Dune ($13.7 million overseas in weekend three) earned worldwide combined. We could see China’s third $690-$840 million-plus grosser for 2021 after Detective Chinatown 3 ($690 million) and Hi, Mom ($840 million). Heck, it could pass the entire $470 million gross of last year’s (very good and partially shot-on-IMAX) pre-World War II “China vs. Japan” epic The Eight Hundred within a week.
It’s too early to argue that the actioner, starring Wolf Warrior II’s Wu Jing along with Better Days’ Jackson Yee, will challenge Wolf Warrior II ($854 million in 2017) as China’s biggest grosser, but it’s more than likely that we’ll see a final figure around The Wandering Earth ($699 million in 2019) or Ne Zha ($720 million in 2019). The “hope” for Hollywood is that it’ll be played out by the time Dune and No Time to Die open accordingly. Meanwhile, the anthology flick My Country, My Parents opened with $91 million this weekend. The film is a follow-up to My Country, My People ($450 million in 2019) and My People, My Homeland ($430 million in 2020).
If you’re wondering why Warner Bros. is waiting to open Dune on October 22, that’s a big reason. The day-and-date with China will let The Battle of Lake Changjin and My People, My Parents do their thing while avoiding much piracy overlap from Dune HBO Max rips. WB is hoping the overseas-first gambit plays closer to Zootopia than Battleship. Denis Villeneuve’s $165 million sci-fi epic earned an additional $13.7 million in weekend three, pushing the film’s overseas cume past $100 million. The film took an understandable 49% drop against Venom 2 and James Bond 25. If it can survive those two, Dune will have little else in the realm of tentpole competition between those two titans and Eternals in early November.
In other holdover news, Walt Disney’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings fell to second place for the first time in a month. The MCU actioner earned another $6 million (-54%) on its fifth Friday, taking its first real hit due to obvious competition from Sony’s Marvel movie. Nonetheless, the Simu Lui-led fantasy became the first pandemic-era flick to cross $200 million domestic on Thursday, and its $206.1 put it a day away from the $206.3 million cumes of Bad Boys For Life (currently the biggest grosser of 2020 and 2021) and of Thor: The Dark World (in 2013). We’ll see if Disney’s “available at home on November 12!!” news blast will hurt theatrical numbers, but so far evidence suggests that it won’t.
Shang-Chi might get a boost in a few weeks from Eternals-related hype. That’s what we saw, relatively speaking, with Black Panther (alongside Avengers: Infinity War), Captain Marvel (alongside Avengers: Endgame) and Avengers: Endgame (alongside Spider-Man: Far from Home). At a glance, it’s still looking like a $220 million domestic cume, which still looks like maybe 85% of what it might have earned (over/under $255 million) in non-Covid times. It has earned $386 million worldwide, thus passing Black Widow ($377 million). That we saw some tough drops this weekend is more about the sheer overwhelming four-quadrant appeal of Venom 2 (along with other wide openers like Addams Family 2 and The Many Saints of Newark) and massive loss of theaters for holdovers as opposed to shifting theatrical windows.
Alas, Dear Evan Hansen absolutely acted like the opposite of The Greatest Showman. The critically savaged musical melodrama, starring Ben Platt as a kid who gets involved in a false narrative about a dead classmate, earned just $2.45 million (-67%) in weekend two for a miserable $11.75 million ten-day cume. Any hope that the solid audience scores and A- Cinemascore grade would help this one leg out vanished like, well, like a turd in the wind. This one won’t get anywhere near its $26 million budget, with a likely domestic finish below $17 million. Here’s hoping it finds some salvation as a PVOD title in a couple of weeks. If I have time to make an “underrated of 2021” list, it’s going near the top.
Free Guy grossed $2.278 million (-45%) in weekend eight to bring its domestic cume to $117.627 million. That puts it past the domestic total of Dwyane Johnson and Emily Blunt’s Jungle Cruise ($116 million after a $680,000 tenth-weekend gross) and pushes the film’s global cume to $320 million worldwide. Jungle Cruise has earned $206 million global, plus whatever it earned from Disney+ Premier Access availability. Universal’s Candyman earned $1.23 million (-52%) in weekend six for a $58.9 million domestic cume. I’d wager the (circumstantially-specific) depressed grosses for Candyman, Old ($48.2 million domestic) and The Forever Purge ($45 million) partially led to Halloween Kills getting a day-and-date theatres/Peacock release on October 15. Still, the opening for Venom 2 suggests that Halloween Kills might still play “as otherwise intended.”
Alas, Cry Macho lost 2,780 theatres in weekend three and earned a $490,000 (-76%) weekend for a $9.634 million 17-day cume. Malignant grossed just $310,000 (-79%) for a $13.056 million 24-day cume. Likewise, Open Road and Briarcliff’s Cop Shop, a pretty good cops-n-robbers action drama starring Alexis Louder, Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo, lost 2,580 theatres in weekend three. Cue a $100,000 (-92%) weekend for a $5.1 million 17-day cume. The Eyes of Tammy Faye grossed $236,000 (-62%) for a miserable $2.1 million 17-day cume, while Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter sits at $2.622 million after 24 days. F9 will officially pass $173 million domestic tonight, but the $173.9 million cume of Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is absolutely a bridge too far.