Though the box office has shown improvement and theater attendance has demonstrated renewed confidence, the upcoming holiday season appears it may follow the blueprint established over the summer, right through the big flourishes of October. Adult moviegoing will likely still be down, the final WB/HBO Max film may struggle to reach $100 million, and family films may not quite have the numbers yet, despite the fact kids are eligible for vaccinations now. While there is one huge film likely to become the new benchmark for milestones just before Christmas – and maybe one in a couple weeks that could surprise some – there is another Marvel movie this week with all of its numbers being called into question.
(Photo by Sophie Mutevelian/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Let’s look at those numbers for Eternals. It’s estimated for a $71 million weekend, which is good enough for the fourth best opening of the year, just ahead of F9. That means that the top four starts of 2021 belong to Marvel-based entities (including Venom: Let There Be Carnage). Where some are throwing daggers at Chloé Zhao’s film is that its 48% Tomatometer score is the lowest of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the only Rotten one at that.
While you can be certain any studio would prefer the critics liked their movies, their bottom lines are the ticket sales. So here is the bottom line – since 2010, no MCU film has grossed less than $175 million at the box office. We could even comfortably say ever if we completely discounted 2008’s The Incredible Hulk ($134.8 million). Even during the pandemic, every Marvel film has hit that mark, including the hybrid release of Black Widow. Going forward, it’s going to be all about the drops: Eternals is going to be #1 again next week, likely no worse than third over the Thanksgiving holiday, and top five through mid-December, and it will probably remain in the top 10 until Christmas. That’s slightly longer than F9 stayed in the top 10, and it finished with $173 million. Let’s see if Eternals can stay ahead of that film’s pace, given that it grossed 43.2% of its opening weekend ($30.7 million) on Thursday and Friday. The top grossing films of the year were just as frontloaded – Shang-Chi (39.13%), Venom: Let There Be Carnage (41.56%), Black Widow (49.16%), F9 (42.63%), and No Time to Die (42.21%). Globally, Eternals has grossed $161 million.
(Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures)
When Dune opened to $41 million two weeks ago, the history of the numbers suggested it was not bound for $100 million despite a lot being written that it was en route. Things looked better last weekend after a reasonably solid midweek haul. Despite remaining in second place this weekend, Denis Villeneuve’s film dropped another 51% down to $7.6 million, bringing its 17-day total to $83.9 million. There are plenty of ways to look at that number pre- and post-pandemic, so let’s examine.
There have been 13 films that have opened between $35-45 million and grossed between only $7-8 million in their third weekend. Every single one of them managed to get over $100 million. Most ended up somewhere between $100-105 million, but they got there… as theatrical exclusives.
The Cat in the Hat, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Noah, and Pacific Rim had third weekends between $7.1-$7.8 million; they each finished between $100-102 million. They were also all between $200,000 and $1.2 million ahead of Dune after 17 days, so $100 million is not a certainty just yet. Noah had a $5 million fourth weekend, but Zohan had just a $3.17 million fourth with the benefit of summer weekdays. The race is going to be close, but if Dune does miss out, then The Matrix Resurrections will be the last chance for the WB/HBO Max experiment to produce another $100 million film.
(Photo by Nicola Dove/©MGM)
No Time To Die remained in third place with $6.1 million, bringing its 24-day total to $143.1 million. That is the tenth-best 24-day total for a film opening in October and puts it on pace for a total over $160 million. Internationally, the film has grossed over $667 million and is headed to best F9’s global total. Venom: Let There Be Carnage’s 31-day total is $197 million after a $4.4 million weekend. That’s about $10 million behind the first film’s pace but is still the fifth-best total for an October release and is going to squeak into a final total between $200-203 million. It has grossed $424 million worldwide.
Wes Anderson continues to draw audiences, even during a time when adults are not flocking to theaters. The French Dispatch added 417 theaters this weekend (now 1,205 total) as well as $2.6 million to its total, which now stands at $8.4 million. That is Searchlight Pictures’ highest total since Jojo Rabbit went on to gross $33.1 million in 2019-2020. It’s also more than last week’s Searchlight release, Antlers, and Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho, both totaling about $7.6 million after 10 days. Neon went wide with Pablo Larrain’s Spencer this weekend in 996 theaters, and it grossed $2 million for a per-theater-average of $2,008. It only needs to double that to become the company’s seventh-highest grossing film ever; $4.5 million would make it fifth.
(Photo by ©Universal Pictures)
Finally, this weekend all but confirms that Halloween Kills is not going to cross the $100 million mark. That probably seemed unfathomable just three weeks ago when it opened to $49 million. It made its run through Oct. 31 with a side run on the streaming Peacock, but a drop of 75% down to $2.2 million puts the film just shy of $90 million. That means it is on course to join Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Fifty Shades of Grey, Valentine’s Day, Paranormal Activity 3, 2009’s Friday the 13th, and Cloverfield as films that started over $40 million and did not gross double its opening. It will now displace High School Musical 3 as the highest opening weekend to not gross $100 million.
(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)
Clifford the Big Red Dog was pulled from its September release slot (and a screening at the Toronto Film Festival), but it will resurface next week in theaters and on Paramount Plus. Will it do well enough to greenlight a sequel just as Paw Patrol did? Also opening is Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical Belfast, which currently sits at 88% on the Tomatometer and is being primed as one of this year’s major award contenders. Also from the directors of RBG comes the documentary Julia, about legendary television chef, Julia Child, and it’s getting similarly enthusiastic reviews.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]