Simu Liu plays Shang-Chi in Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”.
If Hollywood needed a sign that different content was selling, it got one in 2018.
It started with the blockbuster “Black Panther” which broke the box office records and won three of the six Academy Awards for which it was nominated. The superhero film, which was mostly made up of blacks, achieved ticket sales of more than $ 1.34 billion at the global box office.
Six months later, Jon Chu’s “Crazy Rich Asians” shook expectations. The film grossed more than $ 238 million in ticket sales on a $ 30 million budget, making it one of the top grossing romantic comedies of all time.
It was a wake-up call for an industry that had been reluctant to turn away from the tried and tested Hollywood formulas. The studios quickly realized that more variety means more money.
Three years later, Marvel introduces its first Asian superhero, the legendary Shang-Chi, and the film has the chance to become the next “Black Panther” to hit the box office.
“It’s not just the right thing,” said Rolando Rodriguez, chairman, president and CEO of Marcus Theaters, of the drive to be more inclusive in Hollywood. “Frankly, it’s important to do this from a business perspective.”
Rodriguez, who is also chairman of the National Association of Theater Owners, said minorities together make up a large proportion of moviegoers.
For example, while Hispanics make up around 18% of the population, they make up around 24% of moviegoers, he said. Add in African American and Asian audiences that make up 17% and 7% of the audience, and that’s nearly 50% of the business.
And films like “Black Panther” with a predominantly black cast are not only resonating with black audiences. Other minorities flocked to see the film, Rodriguez said. The same is expected to happen with “Shang-Chi” in September, as well as other films such as “In the Heights” and “Eternals,” which feature different casts.
“Create inspiration and encourage striving”
When Disney released Black Panther in 2018, it had the highest opening weekend of any Marvel movie to date. Domestically, the film grossed $ 292 million in its first seven days of cinema, $ 22 million more than the team film, “Avengers,” which was raised in the first week of 2012.
It was the first time Marvel had a black superhero as the lead actor. According to Comscore, 37% of the audience on the opening weekend were African American, more than twice what that demographic normally represents for other Marvel films.
A similar result was seen by viewers watching “Crazy Rich Asians” in theaters.
“Black Panther” also benefited from being a critically acclaimed film. It received a 96% “Fresh” rating from Rotten Tomatoes and won three Academy Awards.
Under the direction of the late Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther told the deeply emotional story of a man who grapples with the death of his father. In addition to taking on the king’s mantle, he must face the mistakes of the man he idolized and protect his family and people. This narrative was put in the context of a superhero film, making the feature more than just an action film, but an emotionally resonant piece of popular culture.
“Black Panther” paved the way for Marvel to produce other inclusive stories, including the recent launch of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” in which Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) grapples with what it means to be a black man, Captain America to be.
Rodriguez noted that “Shang-Chi” will do for the Asian community what “Black Panther” will do for the black community.
“These films create inspiration and encourage pursuit,” he said.
A long way to ‘Shang-Chi’
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” will be released on September 3 and follows the title Shang-Chi, a skilled martial artist who was trained to be an assassin by his father at a young age but went away to live a normal life. However, Shang-Chi can only flee from its past for so long.
The film stars Simu Liu, a Canadian television star, as part of a predominantly Asian cast that includes Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, Ronny Chieng and Florian Munteanu.
Tony Leung has been confirmed as The Mandarin, the vicious leader of the Ten Rings terrorist organization. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will remember that Ben Kingsley portrayed a fake version of this character in “Iron Man 3”.
Behind the camera are the director Destin Daniel Cretton (“Just Mercy”) and the Chinese-American screenwriter Dave Callaham. Cretton and Andrew Lanham are also recognized as the film’s writers.
President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, Director Destin Daniel Cretton and Simu Liu of Marvel Studios ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ at the Marvel Studios Panel of the San Diego Comic-Con International 2019 in Hall H on July 20, 2019 in San Diego, California.
Alberto E. Rodriguez | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
The character of Shang-Chi was invented in 1972 after Marvel failed to acquire the rights to adapt the television program “Kung Fu”. So the company created its own.
In the 1980s, Stan Lee reportedly met with Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee, who had been used as a model for Shang-Chi, about the possibility of a Shang-Chi television series. Lee’s death on the set of “The Crow” put an end to those plans, however.
Twenty years later, in 2002, Blade director Stephen Norrington was reportedly attached to a Shang Chi feature film. However, he retired after making The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen a notorious box office flop.
A handful of other directors were tied to the project over the next decade, but nothing solidified until 2018 when Marvel announced that it had tapped Callaham to write the script.
“Movies like ‘Shang-Chi’ can have a huge impact,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “It can open the minds of moviegoers. [The] preconceived notions of what makes a superhero can be redefined, challenged, and re-evaluated. “
“Cultures and races traditionally removed from the superhero equation can find plenty to celebrate as they too are portrayed as iconic heroes on the big screen,” he said.
Disney is already touting its trust in the film and the entire cinema industry by committing to a 45-day exclusive cinema window for the new superhero film. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the studio used various release strategies over the past year. In some cases, Disney has put movies that would have hit theaters in a pre-Covid era direct to its streaming service for free. In other countries, Disney + Premier Access offered films for $ 30 rental. More recently, the company decided to release blockbusters in theaters and on Disney + Premier Access on the same day.
That will not be the case with “Shang-Chi”. The superhero film will only be available in cinemas. The decision is based on a recent easing of pandemic restrictions across the country, an increase in vaccination rates and a decrease in the number of Covid-19 cases.
In particular, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that fully vaccinated people will not need to wear face masks in most situations. This recommendation should help increase public confidence in the return to normal activities and allow states to lift capacity restrictions in cinemas.
Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios, has long spoken about the desire to increase representation in the MCU not only in front of but also behind the camera. The Phase 4 list of Marvel Movies and Shows contains more voices and stories than ever before.
According to the incredible Hulk himself, Mark Ruffalo, Feige was ready to quit his job to promote diversity within the MCU.
“When we did the first ‘Avengers’, Kevin Feige said to me, ‘Look, I might not be here tomorrow,'” Ruffalo said in an interview with the Independent last year. “And he’s like ‘Ike [Perlmutter] don’t think anyone will go to a super movie with women. ‘So if I’m still here tomorrow you will know that I won this fight. ‘”
Perlmutter is the retired chairman and CEO of Marvel Entertainment and has a longstanding reputation for frugality.
Ruffalo added that Feige wanted black superheroes, female superheroes, and LGBT superheroes in the MCU. And he got his hard-won wish.
After the events of the series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on Disney +, the MCU now has a Black Captain America. A second “Black Panther Movie” is coming out next year, and a series based on a young black superhero named Riri Williams, who is taking over Ironheart’s coat, is planned for Disney +.
“Black Widow,” which hits theaters in July, will be Marvel’s second female-led feature film. His third will appear on November 11, 2022 with “The Marvels,” a sequel to “Captain Marvel,” starring Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel, a newly driven Monica Rambeau, and Kamala Khan, who is Muslim, as a woman of Amazement.
Behind the camera, Marvel hired Anna Boden to co-direct “Captain Marvel” with partner Ryan Fleck. Oscar-winning director Chloe Zhao directed The Eternals, due for release in November. Cate Shortland directed Black Widow; and Ryan Coogler returns to direct the sequel to “Black Panther”.
“‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ is really an important film,” said Dergarabedian. “And like the groundbreaking ‘Black Panther’ before it, it should promote the idea that different characters can actually appeal to a wide audience.”