'Shang-Chi,' with an Asian lead, sets a North America box office record
'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' is shown at a special screening at El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles on September 2, 2021(AFP)

The North American box office got a big boost as Disney's new "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," featuring Marvel's first leading Asian superhero, scored an unexpectedly strong $75.4 million opening, industry observer Exhibitor Relations said Tuesday.

That figure, for the Friday-through-Sunday period, was a Labor Day weekend record, the Hollywood Reporter said, and the film took in an additional $19.3 million on Monday.

"This is a fantastic opening on a traditionally quiet Labor Day weekend," said David A. Gross of Franchise Entertainment Research. "The three-day number is a record-breaker for the holiday, a positive finish to the summer... (marking) a sensational weekend for the industry."

"Shang-Chi" stars Canadian actor, stuntman and erstwhile Deloitte accountant Simu Liu as Marvel's newest superhero, a former assassin in the shadow of an evil father. It also features Awkwafina, Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh.

The film, which has drawn strong reviews for its choreography and Asian representation, enjoyed the second biggest opening of this pandemic year, behind Marvel's "Black Widow," which had an $80 million opening.

"Black Widow" was launched simultaneously on the Disney+ streaming platform, but "Shang-Chi" is only viewable in theaters.

By way of comparison, Universal's slasher film "Candyman" topped last weekend's box office with just $22 million before slipping to second place this weekend with a three-day take of $10.3 million ($12.5 million for four days). It stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.

In third place this weekend was "Free Guy" from 20th Century, at $8.9 million ($11.2 million for four days). The sci-fi comedy stars Ryan Reynolds as an everyman bank teller who finds himself inside a huge video game.

Disney's family adventure film "Jungle Cruise" came in fourth, at $4 million ($5.1 million for four days).

And in fifth was Paramount animation "PAW Patrol: The Movie," also with a take of $4 million ($5.3 million for four days). It tells the story of a boy and the brave young pups who help him save their city from an impeachment-worthy mayor.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

"Don't Breathe 2" ($2.3 million for three days; $2.8 million for four)

"Respect" ($1.2 million; $1.6 million)

"The Suicide Squad" ($1.2 million; $1.4 million)

"Black Widow" ($780,000; $940,000)

"The Night House" ($520,000; $650,000)