Box Office: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Sings Off-Key With $7.5M Debut; ‘Shang-Chi’ Stays No. 1

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Universal’s Dear Evan Hansen sang off-key in its big-screen debut with a $7.5 million second-place finish as superhero sensation Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings continued to dominate the domestic chart in its fourth weekend with $13.3 million.

To boot, Marvel Studios and Disney’s Shang-Chi became the top-grossing pic of the pandemic era in North America, a record previously held by fellow Marvel title Black Widow ($183.4 million). The tentpole finished Sunday with a domestic total of $196.5 million and $166.9 million overseas for a global total of $363.4 million.

Adapted from the smash Broadway musical of the same name, Dear Evan Hansen‘s mediocre launch in theaters is mitigated by the fact that it reportedly cost less than $30 million to produce, a relatively modest sum for a major Hollywood studio offering.

It remains to be seen whether the Universal film can overcome generally poor reviews (its current ranking on Rotten Tomatoes is 33 percent). Audiences liked the coming-of-age story far more, giving it an A- CinemaScore.

Dear Evan Hansen was filmed in the latter half of summer 2020 by director Stephen Chbosky during the pandemic, with Ben Platt — now 27 years old — reprising his Tony Award-winning lead role as a lonely, disconnected high-school student. Hopes were high, considering that the Tony award-winning stage play was a cultural phenomenon.

Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Colton Ryan, Julianne Moore and Amy Adams also star in the musical,

Musicals are tricky business at the box office. When they strike a chord, a Hollywood studio can strike gold (look no further than Universal’s Mamma Mia! or 20th Century Fox’s The Greatest Showman). When they sing off-key, there is plenty of disappointment to go around (Cats).

Filmmaker Jon M. Chu’s In the Heights, from Warner Bros. and adapted from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stage musical, also opened during the pandemic. That film fared somewhat better in its opening, grossing $11.5 million, but topped out at just $29.8 million domestically. (One difference: In the Heights debuted simultaneously on HBO Max.)

Dear Evan Hansen played best overall on the East Coast in terms of revenue, but the standout market was Salt Lake City, where six of the top 10 grossing theaters were located. The musical has yet to open overseas.

Females made up 62 percent of ticket buyers in North America, while nearly half the audience was under the age of 25.

Box office results are difficult to analyze amid the ongoing pandemic, but the Dear Evan Hansen team had hoped the musical would clear $10 million.

Shang-Chi continues to be a needed balm for box office advocates. Disney opted to give the film an exclusive theatrical release versus opening it day and date on the big screen and Disney+ at a premium price, as it did with Black Widow and several other pandemic-era releases.

Over Labor Day, Shang-Chi smashed the record for the four-day holiday with a haul of $94.7 million. For the three days, it earned $75.4 million, a huge number for September and the second-biggest start of 2021 behind Black Widow ($80.3).

From filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton, Shang-Chi stars Simu Liu as Marvel’s newest hero and is the studio’s first to center on an Asian lead. The superhero offering has been fueled by positive reviews, strong exits from audiences and an A CinemaScore. Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Tony Leung, Fala Chen and Michelle Yeoh also star.

Sleeper hit Free Guy, which also debuted exclusively in cinemas, is another win for theatrical.

The Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds’ movie, from 20th Century and Disney, placed No. 3 all the way in its seventh weekend with $4.1 million for a domestic cume of $114.1 million. Globally, the film has now cleared $317.4 million after jumping the $200 million mark internationally, including a hefty $94 million-plus in China.

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