Finally, we have the movie that saved cinema and it’s… “Venom: Let There Be Carnage”? No single film can possibly restore the box office to pre-pandemic levels, but the Sony title opened to $90 million in North America — in short, exactly what history tells us to expect from the Marvel character sequel.
Pre-opening estimates of $40 million-$60 million didn’t hint at this result. Instead, Andy Serkis’ film, with Tom Hardy reprising his role as a reporter with superpowers gained from aliens, became the biggest first weekend since “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” in December 2019. And with $130 million, this weekend also represents the highest box-office total since mid-February 2020.
Beyond the grosses, here’s what could be a key indication that normalcy is in sight: “Carnage” grossed 12 percent more than “Venom” did when it opened exactly three years ago (when it had a boost from the 2018 Indigenous Peoples’ Day holiday weekend). On average, openings for Marvel characters’ first sequels have an 18 percent increase over the originals.
That differs from the relatively strong openings like “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Black Widow,” “F9,” and “A Quiet Place Part 2,” all of which came with the Covid caveat. “Carnage” performed as though the pandemic conditions didn’t exist.
Because “Joker” opened this same weekend in 2019 to $96 million, the overall weekend fell slightly shy of that year’s overall results. Even at 86 percent, that’s a great start to the month. Our running tally of four-week averages is 61 percent. With “No Time to Die” opening next weekend, and other promising titles to follow, theaters could end up closer to parity more quickly than expected.
“Carnage” had little competition with no new films of note since “Shang-Chi.” Its unpublished Cinemascore (B+, confirmed from other distribution sources) wouldn’t suggest a clearly positive initial response (the first film had the same grade). It also survived a frantic redating (from September 24 to October 15, back to this weekend), although it will lose most of its prime presentation by the time Bond is in full flower October 8.
Animated sequel “The Addams Family 2” grossed $18 million, down from $30 million for the original. However, it was available on Premium VOD (#2 currently at iTunes, just behind newly released “Free Guy”), and family films have seen an overall drop of 25 percent or more below previous results. It’s another strong result.
The HBO Max play for “The Many Saints of Newark” didn’t help its gross of $5 million, but the poor C+ Cinemascore suggest it didn’t have a strong future iregardless of home availability.
Five of the top 10 are new this week, but Julia Ducornau’s Cannes Palme D’Or winner “Titane” isn’t among them. The acclaimed but unconventional French film opened in 562 theaters for $515,000.
Ahead of it at #9 was “The Jesus Music,” a documentary about faith-based performers; #10 is “Chal Mera Putt 3” (Rhythm Boyz), the third in a franchise about Indian immigrants in England. Both played in half or fewer locations as “Titane.”
Top specialized locations did best (New York’s IFC Center was #1 with around $15,000 for the weekend), but their grosses were far below normal results for platform runs. It’s an inexact comparison with additional theaters playing, and some (like the Arclight Hollywood) not open. All told, theaters in the New York and Los Angeles areas likely provided around $150,000 of the $516,000 estimate — about the same as a standard four-theater platform opening.
Neon accurately notes that this is the largest opening gross for a Cannes winner in 17 years, but other titles opened in limited runs. By comparison, its own “Parasite” grossed $393,000 in three theaters in 2019, compared this result. The wider release pattern for “Titane” is similar to those executed by Focus and A24 prior to an early Premium VOD release, but Neon has not announced a date.
Internationally, “No Time to Die” opened in 54 territories, mostly on Thursday, for an estimated $119 million weekend total. Japan, Germany, Italy, and Spain were among the countries where it broke records for a Bond opening. The UK/Ireland led all grosses with $25.6 million in three days through Saturday — not a Bond record, but very strong.
Finally, some context: This weekend, China opened Korean War-set “The Battle at Lake Changjin” to $230 million. The patriotic-themed film was positioned to benefit from a national holiday.
The Top Ten
1. Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 47; Est. budget: $110 million
$90,100,000 in 4,225 theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $90,100,000
2. The Addams Family 2 (United Artists) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 39; also on Premium VOD
$18,007,000 in 4,207 theaters; PTA: $4,280; Cumulative: $18,007,000
3. The Many Saints of Newark (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: C+; Metacritic: 61; also on HBO Max
$5,000,000 in 3,181 theaters; PTA: $1,572; Cumulative: $5,000,000
4. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney) Week 5; Last weekend #1
$6,037,000 (-54%) in 3,455 (-497) theaters ; PTA: $1,747; Cumulative: $206,109,000
5. Dear Evan Hansen (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend #2
$2,450,000 (-67%) in 3,364 (no change) theaters ; PTA: $728; Cumulative: $11,800,000
6. Free Guy (Disney) Week 8; Last weekend #3; also on Premium VOD
$2,278,000 (-45%) in 2,545 (-630) theaters ; PTA: $895; Cumulative: $117,628,000
7. Candyman (Universal) Week 6; Last weekend #4; also on Premium VOD
$1,230,000 (-52%) in 1,745 (-811) theaters ; PTA: $705; Cumulative: $58,903,000
8. Jungle Cruise (Disney) Week 10; Last weekend #6; also on Premium VOD
$680,000 (-61%) in 1,375 (-690) theaters; PTA: $495; Cumulative: $116,063,000
9. Chal Mera Putt 3 (Rhythm Boyz) NEW
$(est.) 590,000 in 81 theaters; PTA: $7,284; Cumulative: $(est.) 590,000
10. The Jesus Music (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 42
$560,250 in 249 theaters; PTA: $2,250; Cumulative: $560,250
Additional specialized/limited/independent releases
Titane (Neon) NEW – Metacritic: 74
$515,747 in 562 theaters; PTA: $918
Karen Dalton: In My Own Time (Greenwich) – Festivals include: Doc NYC 2021
$6,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,000
Possession (Metrograph) REISSUE
$17,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $17,000
I’m Your Man (Bleecker Street) Week 2
$47,805 in 51 (+35) theaters; Cumulative: $93,564
The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Searchlight) Week 3
$236,000 in 985 (-382) theaters; Cumulative: $2,101,000
The Card Counter (Focus) Week 4; also on Premium VOD
$65,000 in 389 (-340) theaters; Cumulative: $2,623,000
The Alpinist (Roadside Attractions) Week 4
$20,130 in 58 (-127) theaters; Cumulative: $780,843
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