IMAX CEO says ‘Shang-Chi’ debut is encouraging sign for the box office

Disney’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” has done more than smash Labor Day weekend opening records. It’s provided the movie industry with confidence that it can recover from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“I think people don’t understand how important the last week was,” said IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” Wednesday.

With a box office haul of $75.5 million over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, “Shang-Chi” had the second-highest domestic debut since the pandemic began. Its total box-office haul for the four-day holiday weekend topped $90 million, nearly triple that of the previous Labor Day weekend record holder “Halloween,” which was released in 2007 and collected $30.6 million.

“I think it goes to show no matter what weekend it is, if there’s a really good movie, really good content and it’s delivered exclusively to theaters, people want to come out,” Gelfond said. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand and it was encouraging how many people came out this weekend.”

The box office success of “Shang-Chi” also led Sony to push up its release of “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” to Oct. 1 from Oct. 15. Throughout the pandemic, studios have shuffled release dates, often postponing films for months and, in some cases, more than a year. It has been rare that a studio has moved an opening date earlier in the calendar.

“There’s no question in my mind that the result of ‘Shang-Chi’ influenced that,” Gelfond said.

Gelfond called the combination of “Shang-Chi’s” opening, the release date change of “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” and the confirmation that the latest James Bond film “No Time to Die” would keep its Oct. 8 release date an “inflection point” for the industry.

“We’ve all been in this game of Chutes and Ladders for so long, but I think absent of another variant or change in the health situation, you’ve finally seen the pendulum turn,” he said. “I think it looks pretty good from here.”

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