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Shang-Chi And The Audience That Made It Legendary

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a film made up of many firsts. It’s Marvel’s first film led by an Asian superhero along with it being anchored by a cast and director of Asian origin. It now holds the Labour Day Box Office record, and is now the first film of 2021 to break the $200 million domestic box office barrier; the first to do so since 2020’s Bad Boys for Life.

Given these milestones, we wanted to take a look at which US moviegoers returned to cinema and made the title such a successful theatrical release.


The pre-sale audience Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings attracted a younger male audience, a trend that held throughout its opening weekend as well. When we compare it to the other recent Disney release Black Widow, pre-sales showed 41% of the Shang-Chi audience was made up of males under 34 years old vs 29%, and 33% visiting at least monthly vs 17%.

Pre-sale Audience Shang-Chi vs Black Widow 

*The grey bars on each graph indicate the benchmark values for all movies

2021-10-14-shang-chi-MKG-5513-2.jpgShang-Chi vs. Black Widow

When we look at moviegoers in Marvel ecosystem, they will likely see most movies within it, so it’s unsurprising to see fewer moviegoers returning for the first time to see Shang-Chi (12%) because so many made their first return (post pandemic) to the cinema to see Black Widow (29%). While it’s true that each subsequent movie released is likely to have a lower percentage of returners simply because of time, it could also be said that if Black Widow had been an exclusive theatrical release, the 12% mentioned above could have been much lower. 

Opening Weekend

Similar to what we saw for pre-sales, our Weekend Insights data showed that during its debut, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was the top pick for all age groups, particularly with Gen Z and Millennial males who saw the biggest week on week theatrical attendance jump, +166% and +144% respectively.

With Shang-Chi also being the first Asian led Marvel blockbuster, we saw it over-index with Asian audiences, representing 11% of its total opening weekend audience compared to 6% for the average moviegoing audience. This is slightly higher than the Asian audience that attended recent release Snake Eyes: G.I Joe Origins (10%), but lower than pre-pandemic release Crazy Rich Asians with 17% of its opening weekend audience made up of Asian moviegoers. These percentages also reflect the fact that Snake Eyes is an Action film that features an Asian lead, whereas Crazy Rich Asians, more similar to Shang-Chi, was a title that featured both Asian people and Culture so they understandably attracted a larger Asian audience.

Opening Weekend Ethnicity Breakdown: Shang-Chi

2021-10-14-shang-chi-MKG-5513-3.jpgShang-Chi vs. All movies

It’s also interesting to note that among known US moviegoers, ~20% of the total Shang-Chi opening weekend audience was returning for the first time since April 2020, but ~30% of the Asian Shang-Chi audience was returning for the first time. Which in turn reinforces the common argument, along with our research with the Geena Davis Institute, for the creation of more culturally diverse movies. People want to see themselves reflected in what they see on the big screen.

Weekend 2 +

Its sophomore weekend brought more success, with Shang-Chi roaring past top earning 2021 films Black Widow and F9, becoming (along with new release Venom: Let there be Carnage) the fastest film to reach the $100 million domestic milestone. When we compare Shang-Chi with these two films beyond their opening weekends we continue to see strong attendance from younger males, the film’s relative hold also greatly assisted by its theatrical exclusivity.

While F9 and Black Widow attracted a more even gender split 46% Female, and 56% Male, Shang-Chi saw 59% of its audience made up of males. Attracting a larger male audience is anomalous when compared to our all movies benchmark but not when we compare with Black Widow or F9, which both had more female leads on screen which is reflected in their audience. 

We also saw that post opening weekend, Shang-Chi continued to over-index in the 18-34 year old bracket (30%) compared to both F9 (26%) and Black Widow (23%) who seemed to attract a slightly older audience, the later more inline with our general benchmark at this point in the release cycle (24%).

Week 2+ Gender/Age Breakdown Shang-Chi

2021-10-14-shang-chi-MKG-5513-4.jpgShang-Chi vs. All movies

We’re back!

Just like Arnold, we knew we’d be back. It’s an exciting time for cinema with the fantastic success of Shang-Chi a true indicator of the return of moviegoing, especially with new releases Venom: Let there be Carnage, No Time to Die, along with Dune, Eternals and Ghostbusters (just to name a few) set to debut before the end of the year. We’ll be keeping a close eye on these audiences, and the momentum this jam packed slate will no doubt create, but it’s clear that younger moviegoers are perhaps the most confident audience segment ready to lead the return to cinema. 

For weekly audience insights make sure to visit our recently relaunched Weekend Insights page.

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