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Disney's 'Shang-Chi' Becomes Year's Top Grossing Film, 'Dear Evan Hansen' Hits Sour Note At Box Office

The Walt Disney Co.’s (NYSE: DIS) “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” maintained its hold as the top film in the U.S. for the fourth consecutive week, bringing in $13.3 million from 3,952 theaters and setting a new record as the year’s top grossing film with $196.5 million in domestic ticket sales.

What Happened: “Shang-Chi” toppled another Disney-released Marvel Cinematic Universe title that previously reigned as 2021’s U.S. box office champ: “Black Widow,” with $186.7 million in ticket sales. However, “Black Widow” simultaneously released on the Disney+ streaming service while “Shang-Chi” is a theatrical-exclusive release.

Two additional Disney titles continued to draw audiences: “Free Guy” grossed $4.1 million from 3,175 screen in its seventh week in theaters and “Jungle Cruise” brought in $1.7 million from 2,065 theaters from its ninth week in release – “Jungle Cruise” is also playing on Disney+.

What Didn’t Happen: “Shang-Chi” held its dominance against the film version of the Tony Award-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen” from Comcast’s (NASDAQ: CMCSA) Universal Picture, which ranked second with $7.5 million in ticket sales from 3,364 theaters.

“Dear Evan Hansen” came to theaters following scathing reviews from its premiere earlier this month at the Toronto International Film Festivals, where critics questioned director Stephen Chobsky’s adaptation of the material, particularly the casting of 27-year-old Ben Platt as the eponymous troubled teen – Platt originated the role in the 2016 Broadway production, but many critics complained he did not maintain an illusion of youth on camera.

“Dear Evan Hansen” marks the second Broadway-based musical to underperform this year upon arrival in theaters, following the unsuccessful release of “In the Heights” from AT&T’s (NYSE: T) Warner Bros. However, “Dear Evan Hansen” was made on a relatively modest budget of $28 million and has a chance of breaking even or scoring a small profit, whereas “In the Heights” cost $55 million and has grossed less than $50 million to date.

Who Saw This Coming? The biggest surprise among the weekend’s release was a film that was not hyped by Hollywood for success: “Love Story,” a Telugu-language romantic drama film from Indian writer/director Sekhar Kammula.

“Love Story” premiered in tenth on the weekend’s top 10 list with $790,000 in ticket sales from 300 theaters, making it the year’s most successful foreign-language film. Sony Pictures (NYSE: SONY) handled the film’s U.S. release.

What Happens Next: The upcoming weekend box office will see two new films in nationwide release inspired by popular television series: United Artists Releasing’s animated offering “The Addams Family 2,” an animated riff on the creepy and kooky clan featuring voice performances by Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Bette Midler and Snoop Dogg, and “The Sopranos” sequel “The Many Saints of Newark” via AT&T’s New Line Cinema.

Both films will be simultaneously available for home-based viewers, with “The Addams Family 2” through premium on-demand and “The Many Saints of Newark” via HBO Max.

Home-based viewers subscribing to Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), will enjoy the streaming premieres of the crime thriller “The Guilty” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ethan Hawke, which opened in limited theatrical release on Sept. 24 to qualify for critic and industry awards, and “Diana: The Musical,” a video record of the upcoming Broadway show about the life of Diana, Princess of Wales.

In Other Developments: When casting a film with an Italian plumber as the central character, Chris Pratt might not be the obvious choice for the role. But in this case, Pratt is a voice actor in the new animated feature based on the Super Mario Bros. franchise that has been scheduled for release on Dec. 21, 2022.

Joining Pratt’s Mario in the voice performer cast are Anya Taylor-Joy (Princess Peach), Charlie Day (Luigi), Jack Black (Bowser), Keegan-Michael Key (Toad), Seth Rogen (Donkey Kong), Fred Armisen (Cranky Kong), Kevin Michael Richardson (Kamek) and Sebastian Maniscalco (Spike).

Nintendo Co. Ltd. (OTC: NTDOY) and Illumination are producing the film, with Universal Pictures co-financing and distributing in North America. This will be the second attempt at a big screen Super Mario Bros. film – the previous effort, a 1993 live-action film starring Bob Hoskins as Mario and John Leguizamo as Luigi, was a major flop.

Photo: Simu Liu in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” courtesy of Disney.

© 2021 Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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