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Shang-Chi, Marvel's 1st movie with an Asian lead, has a strong debut despite Delta concerns

Despite concerns over the Delta variant of COVID-19, Marvel's newest hero is tearing up the box office. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel's first superhero film centered around an Asian lead, grossed $71.4 million domestically over three days this weekend and is expected to take in $83.5 million through Labor Day, Variety reports. That easily sets a new record for biggest domestic Labor Day opening weekend of all time, surpassing the $30 million record set by 2007's Halloween. The haul was considered quite impressive especially given the film is about a new character who wasn't well known among general audiences, and Shang-Chi scored the second-best three-day debut of the pandemic behind Marvel's previous movie, Black Widow

More importantly, though, it was also an impressive opening considering COVID-19 cases have been climbing in recent weeks, which left some experts uncertain about the film's box office prospects. Unlike Black WidowShang-Chi was exclusively released in movie theaters and wasn't available to stream online, though it will hit Disney+ after 45 days. So Hollywood has been keeping a close eye on Shang-Chi's performance to indicate whether films scheduled for the fall can do strong business, and Disney CEO Bob Chapek described the movie's release strategy as an "interesting experiment" that would provide "another data point to inform our actions going forward on our titles." 

Shang-Chi's opening, then, could suggest Disney will be more likely to debut its upcoming films like Eternals exclusively in theaters without a simultaneous streaming release. It could also increase studios' confidence in releasing tentpoles including No Time to Die and Spider-Man: No Way Home in theaters rather than postponing them again. 

That's not to say the movie calendar won't be affected by the Delta variant at all, though. Before Shang-Chi opened, COVID-19 concerns already led Paramount Pictures to postpone two highly-anticipated fall releases, Top Gun: Maverick and Jackass Forever, to 2022.