In the last decade, Marvel Studios have gone from being a cinematic experiment to producing the most bankable and profitable movies in history to a point that you could almost call them… “inevitable.” It seems that even a global pandemic cannot change that as with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings third weekend haul, Marvel now domestically have the two top movies of the year so far, and with Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home expected to both aid the revival of the cinema experience in a big way you would not bet against them having all four of their 2021 releases in the top ten.
Shang-Chi is dominating the box office, but Marvel’s history with the top of the box office charts goes all the way back to Iron Man, the first movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which arrived at a point where people were unaware of what that even was. In 2008, Iron Man managed to land as the year’s second highest domestic grossing movie and was only denied top spot thanks to DC rival The Dark Knight. It is therefore ironic that the first time Marvel would land that coveted number one position would be in 2012 with Avengers Assemble, which stole the title away from none other than Christopher Nolan’s Batman finale, The Dark Knight Rises.
Over the following years, Marvel would continue to see their movies constantly dominating the top ten movies of the year, but thanks to some big franchise movies like The Hunger Games, Jurassic World and of course a number of Star Wars sequels, they couldn’t quite reach that pinnacle position again until 2018 came around and saw Black Panther become not only the highest grossing movie of the year, but also Marvel’s biggest movie at that time when it took over $700 million domestically. Avengers: Infinity War was just narrowly beaten into second place with $678 million, but did give the studio their first one-two combo.
After the events Avengers: Infinity War, no one expected Avengers: Endgame to bomb, but neither did many foresee it becoming the biggest grossing movie of all time. Domestically, the film grossed more in its opening weekend than movies outside the top 8 make in their entire theater run, and ended its phenomenal run taking over $858 million domestically and over $2 billion worldwide. It seemed that Marvel were on an unstoppable run, but with the Covid-19 pandemic arriving in 2020 and shutting down cinemas worldwide, there were no Marvel movies released for two years.
With the arrival of Black Widow in July this year, Marvel’s winning streak picked up where it left off in 2019 with the movie very quickly becoming the biggest movie of a very strange and subdued year for theatrical releases. With Shang-Chi now on target to be the first movie to take over $200 million at the domestic box office this year, despite some fans insisting they wouldn’t go see it, their domination of the top two spots is going to remain in place for a little while at least. Although with big movies like Daniel Craig’s last Bond outing No Time To Die, Venom 2 and Ghostbusters: Afterlife all arriving in the next couple of months, and more people starting to venture out to cinemas, whether they can keep both top spots by the end of the year is going to be a hard task even for the might of Marvel. You can view the box office data at The Numbers.