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Clifford the Big Red Dog beat expectations in its North American box office debut, hightailing it to a five-day opening of $22 million, even though it was also available to stream via Paramount+. That’s among the best starts of the pandemic era for a family film.
The movie, which launched Wednesday in order to take advantage of Veterans Day, earned $16.4 million for the three-day weekend frame proper from 3,700 theaters to place No. 2 domestically behind Eternals.
From Marvel and Disney, Eternals — which has been hampered by middling reviews and not-so-great audience scores — grossed $27.5 million from 4,090 cinemas in its sophomore outing for a 10-day domestic total of $118.4 million. The ensemble superhero pic fell 61 percent, less than Venom 2 and Black Widow but more than Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Eternals continues to impress overseas, where it earned another $48 million from 45 markets for a foreign tally of $162.6 million and $281.4 million globally.
Eternals is only available in theaters, while Clifford launched simultaneously in theaters and on Paramount+ in North America, a hybrid release designed to reach as many families as possible amid ongoing concerns over COVID-19. (Paramount used the same strategy for sleeper hit PAW Patrol: The Movie.) Studio executives say it will take time for younger moviegoers to be vaccinated.
“We know that segments of the family audience are not ready to come back,” says Paramount Pictures domestic distribution president Chris Aronson. “Until vax levels are more robust, this release strategy is very successful because it is priming the exhibition pump, which we very much believe in.”
Paramount+ did not release opening viewership numbers for Clifford, which adapts Norman Bridwell’s beloved children’s book series about a young New Yorker named Emily whose tiny new puppy grows 10 feet tall overnight. It earned an A CinemaScore, and played to an ethnically diverse audience.
The film stars Darby Camp as Emily alongside Jack Whitehall, John Cleese and Tony Hale. Walt Becker directs the film. Jay Scherick, David Ronn and Blaise Hemingway penned the screenplay from a story by Justin Malen and Ellen Rapoport. Jordan Kerner and Iole Lucchese are producers.
A popular animated Clifford series has aired on PBS since 2000. In July, Paramount pulled the feature film from a September theatrical release amid concerns over the delta variant.
Elsewhere, Dune held at No. 3 domestically, followed by No Time to Die, which cleared the $150 million mark in its sixth weekend, and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which crossed the $200 million milestone in North America. (It is only the second film of the pandemic era to do so, the other being Shang-Chi.)
Venom 2 finished Sunday with a domestic total of $202.7 million and $441.5 million globally.
Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch crossed $11 million in its fourth weekend, earning an estimated $1.8 to tie with Belfast for No. 7 and finishing Sunday with a domestic tally of $11.5 million and $26.7 million globally for distributor Searchlight.
Among other specialty offerings, Spencer followed at No. 9 in its second weekend with an estimated $1.5 million for a domestic cume of $4.7 million.
Sony Pictures Classics’ new Julia Child documentary Julia cooked up a location average of $4,159 — one of the best of the weekend — when debuting in five cinemas.
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Red Sea Film Festival