Two years ago, during the height of the pandemic, Disney opted to release SHANG CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS on Labor Day weekend. It was a curious move, to say the least. For decades, Labor Day weekend has been a self-perpetuating box office dead zone. Studios used it as a dumping ground, which, in turn, meant that no one was buying tickets—a classic chicken or egg.
That’s why Disney‘s decision to launch SHANG-CHI on one of the worst weekends of the year was rather odd. And bold.
It’s important to remember that Covid, for better or worse, upended many of the pre-pandemic norms. Films started going directly to streaming, and hybrid releases went mainstream while theaters were starved for content. So, placing SHANG-CHI on one of the worst frames of the year could be interrupted as Disney attempting to reinvent a weekend during this period of mass disruption. After all, there’s no reason why Labor Day can’t be lucrative at the box office. Someone just needs the courage to take that leap. With Shang-CHI, Disney did just that.
The move paid off. SHANG-CHI debuted to $75M, easily breaking the record for Labor Day weekend, nearly tripling the $26M opening for 2007’s HALLOWEEN. And with that, the industry would reconsider how we thought about the end of summer. Or so it seemed.
It turns out that the success of SHANG-CHI was not enough to reinvent the holiday weekend. Fast forward to 2022, and instead of getting another tentpole, we got nothing. Not a single wide release. The closest we got was HONK FOR JESUS SAVE YOUR SOUL, a hybrid release on Peacock that launched in fewer than 2,000 theaters. Things were so bad that Sony re-released SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME a mere two months after the blockbuster wrapped up its initial theatrical run. By the way, SPIDER-MAN nearly won the weekend.
And so it looked like SHANG-CHI was a one-off success. No lessons were learned. No one was brave enough to follow in Disney’s footsteps. Labor Day was back to being a pariah. Or so it seemed. It turns out Sony has been paying attention. They decided to release THE EQUALIZER 3, the final installment in its workhorse series, on September 1st, aka Labor Day weekend.
Granted, THE EQUALIZER is no SHANG-CHI. Nor does it pretend to be. The Denzel Washington vigilante series costs a fraction of a Marvel film, but it’s also not cheap. The first two had budgets in the $55-$85M range. These are important films to the studio. They are a far cry from the throw-away titles that occupied Labor Day in the past. Will it pay off? It certainly looks that way, based on the tracking.
Currently, THE EQUALIZER ranks in the top 10 among all films being tracked by The Quorum. Right now, awareness for the film is at 40%, which places it #10 on The Quorum. It ranks 8th in interest, with 53% saying they want to watch the film. It also ranks in the top 10 in Theater (% who want to see the movie in a theater vs. at home) and Fee (% willing to pay money to see it in a theater or home).
These are very strong numbers for a mid-budget film. So, how does this translate to performance? What kind of opening are we talking about? The first two films in the trilogy had strikingly similar numbers. The first one opened to $34M and grossed $101M. The second one did a hair better, debuting to $36M and totaling $102M. Can the latest one do even better? Can it open above $40M?
THE EQUALIZER 3 belongs to the “Medium” group, meaning it has a budget between $50M and $150M. Since 2012, three films from this group have debuted above $40M:
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4: $74M
CREED III: $58M
When charted against these three titles, EQUALIZER (dark yellow) fares quite well. With an awareness of 40%, it trails CREED III (beige) by only two points.
On the interest side, EQUALIZER (dark blue) is only one point behind CREED III (teal).
So, yes, early in its tracking run, EQUALIZER looks strong. This data suggests that the final installment in the trilogy should be able to match, if not exceed, the performance of the first two films. And if it does, it may well christen Labor Day as an important weekend on the release schedule.